Many grandparents play a key role in daily family live. Research carried out in 2017 revealed that 40% of the nation’s grandparents over the age of 50 have provided regular childcare for their grandchildren. Indeed, the survey showed that 1 in 10 look after their grandchildren at least once a day.
But what happens when the parents divorce? Do grandparents have any rights to see their grandchildren? We take a closer look…
Under English and Welsh law, grandparents do not have any automatic legal rights to see their grandchildren.
Unfortunately, this can mean that in some circumstances, grandparents may find that access to their grandchildren is restricted, or even stopped altogether, when the parents’ relationship breaks down. This can sometimes happen if the divorce is acrimonious and the relationship between the parents is strained. In this situation, one set of grandparents may find themselves unable to see their grandchildren.
Wherever possible, it is usually best to try and agree when you will have contact with your grandchildren with their parents, before going to court.
If you and the parents are unable to agree this between yourselves, mediation (where an independent third party aids discussions) can be useful in some circumstances. As well as hopefully helping you to reach an agreement on how often you can see your grandchildren, mediation could also help to rebuild your relationship with the parent/s.
Child arrangements orders have now replaced ‘contact orders’ and ‘residence orders’ and can include everything from where a child should live, to how often a child will see the other parent and what other contact can take place (video calling, for example).
Grandparents (unless you have parental responsibility) do not automatically have the right to apply for a child arrangements order.
Grandparents who want to apply for a child arrangements order (and don’t have parental responsibility), will need to make an application to the courts for permission to apply for the order.
After an application of this type is made, the court will decide whether or not to give permission to apply for the child arrangements order. The court will take into account a variety of factors, including whether the application could disrupt the child’s life so much that they could be harmed by it and the grandparent’s connection with the child.
If you are worried about contact with your grandchildren during the divorce process and after it, you could speak to a specialist family solicitor about your options.
Seeking legal advice can not only help you to decide what would be the appropriate next steps for your individual circumstances, but it can also help to put your mind at rest.
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