General contact rights for grandparents do not exist. There are no rights for grandparents which state that they have the right to see their grandchildren.
In other words, grandparents do not possess an automatic legal right to see their grandchild.
The lack of general rights for grandparents may seem like bad news for anyone out there unable to see their grandchild. However, there are steps that grandparents can take if the parents will not let them have contact with their grandchild.
While these are not specifically rights for grandparents, there are various options open to a grandparent who wants to have contact with their grandchildren.
Usually, the first port of call should be to attempt to come to an arrangement with the child’s parents for contact to take place. This is known as family-based arrangement. While there are no general legal rights for grandparents to have contact, most parents recognise the valuable role grandparents can play in a child’s life. What’s more, while rights for grandparents do not include the right to see a child, the parents do have a right to choose who their child will see. So reaching an agreement with the parents is the most obvious first option.
Speak to the parents about how much you miss the child and explain the emotional (and practical) support you could offer to both the parents and your grandchild. In many cases, it will be possible to come to a family-based arrangement, without needing to worry any further about contact rights for grandparents.
If it is not possible to come to an informal arrangement, you could try a process called ‘mediation’. This is where a mediator (an independent third party) will work with you and the parents with the aim of coming to an arrangement that will work for both parties.
Court should normally be viewed as a last resort, as the process can take time and can cost a lot of money.
In most instances, grandparents will have to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before applying to court. There are exceptions to this rule, such as when there is domestic violence involved.
Only those who have parental responsibility (usually parents or guardians) can apply for a child arrangements order from the court. Rights for grandparents do not include the right to apply for a court order (unless they have parental responsibility). Initially, grandparents will need to apply for permission to apply for a court order.
The court will consider factors such as your relationship with the child and whether the application might in any way harm the child’s wellbeing. The court will also consider whether the contact with you (the grandparents) would negatively impact the family as a whole.
If you receive permission from the court to apply for a court order, you can then begin the process of applying for a court order to enable you to see your grandchildren.
If the court decides that it is in the child’s best interests for you to spend time with your grandchild, it will then consider how the contact may take place. For example, a court order may specify only indirect contact via letters or over the phone, or direct contact (face-to-face).
If one or both of the child’s parents do not want you to have access to your grandchild, you may have to attend a court hearing where you may have to give evidence.
We would always advise that anyone considering applying for a court order to see their grandchildren seek legal advice from a solicitor with experience in asserting rights for grandparents, such as Austin Kemp.
A good solicitor with expertise in rights for grandparents should be able to show the court how beneficial contact with the grandparents will be for the child.
The court will only make an order if they believe that it is better for the child than making no order at all. Despite the fact that automatic contact rights for grandparents do not exist, the court will take the fact that you are a blood relative into account.
Courts do generally understand that while automatic legal rights for grandparents to see their grandchildren do not exist in England and Wales, this does not mean that grandparents do not have an important role to play in the raising of children.
This means that, in practice, despite the lack of automatic contact rights for grandparents, courts rarely refuse grandparents contact with their grandchildren.
Grandparents cannot obtain parental responsibility by applying for a parental responsibility order.
Sometimes, grandparents may want to care for their grandchild full time. For example, grandparents may want to apply for a special guardianship order (where you become a Special Guardian for your grandchild) or an adoption order (this severs all legal ties between the child and their birth parents, making you the legal parent).
Before applying for any court order, careful consideration needs to be given to ensure that this is the best option for both you and the child. Seeking legal advice is highly recommended.
Here at Austin Kemp, we understand how important the role is that grandparents play in a child’s life. We can advise grandparents (and other extended family members) who have been denied contact with their grandchildren, on the routes that are open to them and the relevant legal procedures which can help them to re-establish contact.
We can also explain the rights for grandparents who want to care for their grandchild on a full-time basis.
Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to rights for grandparents, including:
For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email email@example.com.
Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:
Leeds Office: Princes Exchange, Princes Square, Leeds, LS1 4BY
Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR
Halifax Office: Old Lane, Halifax, HX3 5WP
Huddersfield Office: Northumberland Street Huddersfield, HD1 1RL
Coventry Office: Warwick Road, Coventry, CV1 2DY
Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB
Please contact us for more details.