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What rights do grandparents have in a divorce?

View profile for Sarah Pennicott
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Grandparents can often be caught up in the breakdown of a marriage, which can sometimes result in the breakdown of any contact they would normally have with their grandchildren.  Sarah Pennicott explains here what rights grandparents do have when their son or daughter divorces from their partner, and the steps that can be taken to ensure the best resolution for every party.

There is no legislation that gives grandparents any automatic rights of access to grandchildren either before, during or after the breakdown of a relationship or a divorce. If the grandparent is being denied access to the grandchildren, the first option would be to try Family Mediation. Initially, the grandparent in question can contact the parent whom the children are living with directly to try and initiate the process. Sarah explains, “This approach can sometimes be met with hostility if emotions are still running high after the divorce, but grandparents should try and assure the parent that they simply want ensure a continuing relationship with their grandchildren.”

Failing this, grandparents can directly contact a Family Mediator. A mediator is a neutral person who assists in parties engaging in useful negotiations regarding contact. A mediator will keep the children’s wellbeing the focus of the conversation, giving the parties a calm and unbiased environment to discuss their concerns, frustrations and wishes. Ultimately a mediator could help with agreeing a schedule so that parents and grandparents are content with the ongoing contact and at what level.

If contact cannot be agreed at Family Mediation then there is an opportunity for grandparents to make an application to the courts. Grandparents require the courts permission to make this application, and whether permission is granted will depend on the relationship between the children and grandparents; if it is a close relationship then permission is more likely to be granted.  If the courts are involved then a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service officer (CAFCASS) will act as a point of contact for the family. The CAFCASS officer looks into any issues that needs resolving and gives guidance to the court regarding an outcome.

The wellbeing of the child or children is the priority during these discussion and proceedings, regardless of how the adults involved feel. Parents may feel that their children’s wellbeing is in danger if they do allow access with grandparents. The court will look at this and also how making an order for contact might negatively affect any dynamics in the family.

“The courts are becoming increasingly aware of the important role that grandparents can play in children’s lives and will help set guidelines for contact regardless of the situation between the two divorced or separated parents,” concludes Sarah.  “A divorce or relationship breakdown will always be a stressful and emotional time, with many decisions being made, but the key to the wellbeing of the children is consistency and stability, something that Family Mediation can help to achieve by staying out of the confrontational court system.  We also offer here at Warner Goodman child inclusive mediation, which allows the child themselves to have their views and wishes heard in the safety of the mediation environment.”

If you are a grandparent wanting to know about your rights when it comes to seeing your grandchildren, you can contact Sarah or the team on 02380 717431 or email familyenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.