When relationships break down, it can often be the grandparents who suffer and end up with limited or no contact with their grandchildren.
Under the law in England and Wales grandparents do not have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren. However, the family courts do recognise that grandparents can play a valuable role in the lives of grandchildren and there are ways in which grandparents can ask the courts for contact with their grandchildren.
Before any court application is made, however, it is important to attempt to reach an agreement with the parents or carers of the children.
Grandparents will be required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, unless there are exempting circumstances.
If agreement still cannot be reached, it is possible for a grandparent to make an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order.
Generally, it is only people with parental responsibility who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order (which grandparents do not automatically have) therefore grandparents must ask the court for permission to apply in the first instance.
The court will consider factors such as the involvement that the grandparents have had in the children’s lives, the nature of the application, the views of the parents and whether any application may be harmful to the child.
The court will look at the facts of each case individually to determine whether the grandparents should be granted permission to make a Child Arrangements Order.
If you are granted permission to apply for an order, you will need to pay a court fee and complete an application, providing details about you, the children and the reasons you are bringing the application to the court. You will then need to wait for a date for your court hearing.
It is essential that you get legal advice to help you through this process. Daunting as it may seem, lots of grandparents are successful in their applications to spend time with their grandchildren.
It is extremely sad that one of the unintended consequences of a relationship breakdown is the emotional distress experienced by grandparents who become separated from their grandchildren, but you are certainly not on your own.
We help lots of grandparents who find themselves in the same situation to re-establish relationships with grandchildren.