Do grandparents have a right to contact with their grandchildren?
When a couple makes the decision to divorce, the breakdown of the relationship can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, grandparents of any children of the relationship can suffer and even be prevented from seeing their grandchildren as often as they would like. However, there are certain actions grandparents can take to secure their relationship with their beloved grandchildren and in this article, we look at some of the solutions to a very sensitive legal problem.
It is a sad fact that under UK law, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren (unless they have parental responsibility). However, the family courts recognise the crucial role grandparents often play in a child’s life and as a result, it is very rare a court would refuse a grandparent access to their grandchild unless there was clear evidence of abuse or violence.
In the first instance, you should try to come to an agreement outside the courtroom – this gives you the best chance of maintaining a positive relationship with the child’s parents or any other party involved. Coming to an agreement outside of a courtroom can be challenging, so you may benefit from the assistance of a mediator. Before you can take court action, you must demonstrate to the court that you have attempted to resolve the situation using mediation. The mediator will guide you through the negotiation process allowing everyone to put their points forward and provide practical support to help keep your discussions on track.
If you are not successful in reaching an agreement through mediation, or where contact has broken down completely, you will need to make an application to the court.
Applying to the court for a Contact Order
Making an application to the court is typically a two-step process.
Only people with parental responsibility for a child may apply directly to the court for a Contact Order. As a result, grandparents usually must first apply for permission to make an application. If the court grants you leave, you can apply for a Contact Order which will provide you with a legal basis for contact with your grandchildren. Where the parents of the child raise objections about contact, you may have to attend a full hearing. During the hearing, you must convince the court that you have an ongoing and meaningful connection with your grandchild that benefits them.