Grandparent rights

When a couple break up, as a grandparent, you may be worrying about whether you are still going to be able to see and spend time with your grandchildren.

What happens if the person with care of the child refuses to allow you to visit? 

Despite having played a major part in the child’s upbringing, grandparents can frequently find themselves cut out and not knowing what to do for the best.  They can also find themselves with mixed loyalties particularly if the children end up living with their son or daughter in law. They have loyalties to support their own children in whatever stance they are taking but also want to be supportive to the person with care of the children.

Grandparents’ legal rights are limited, but you can find out where you stand by viewing our questions below.

Remember, there is no substitute for face to face advice tailored to your specific needs and we would be pleased to meet with you to discuss your concerns and how we might be able to help.

I understand I’ve got grandparents rights. What does that mean?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as grandparents rights although it is a phrase that gets repeated often.

As a grandparent, you can bring a case to court to spend time with your grandchildren and in the past grandparents have been treated sympathetically by the courts.  However, unless the grandchildren have been living with you then you would need to get the court's permission (leave) to make the application in the first place.

Can I as a grandparent make a court application for visitation with my grandchildren?

You certainly can.  If your own son or daughter is having regular contact with their children and you have a good relationship with them then you would normally be expected to see the grandchildren when they see them rather than having a specific court order.

It tends to be if your own son or daughter is not seeing the children when you may need to refer the case to court, or if you do not have a good relationship with your own child and do not believe they would bring the grandchildren to see you.

My son/daughter is stopping me from seeing my grandchild, what are my options?

The first course of action we would advise would be talking to them and the child’s other parent to see if you can reach an agreement.

If not, you could consider family mediation.  This is an excellent route to have your views heard by an independent, unbiased person, who will work with all parties concerned to reach a satisfactory outcome, putting the children’s needs first and without enduring the high fees of going to court.  It is now compulsory to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (called a MIAM) before starting any court application (other than in fairly limited circumstances), so it is worth seeing if mediation can work.

If all else fails the final resort is an application to the court which isn’t something people do lightly.  It can bring about a successful, and often an agreed outcome as the whole court process is still largely aimed at trying to bring about agreement.  This can be a costly and lengthy process however.

What can I expect as an outcome from my Court application?

If all goes well you’ll leave court with an agreement or a court order saying you can spend time with your grandchildren.

How often and for how long depends on many issues such as whether the child also spends time with other people e.g the parent they don’t live with, how old the children are and what the geographical distance is between you and the children.

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

This is the type of order you would be applying for if you were struggling to be allowed to see your grandchildren.  It used to be called a ‘child contact order’ and before that ‘access’ and these are terms that many people still refer to.

Nowadays the name is a ‘child arrangement order’ which can not only set out the time the child should spend with you as their grandparents but is also the name given to an order about who the child lives with.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

This is something very different from a Child Arrangement Order.  It is an order grandparents sometimes obtain when there are concerns about the parents’ ability to care for the children. It not only confirms that the child should live with the person named in the order but it also severely restricts the parents’ rights and duties.

In a dispute between the person with the Special Guardianship Order and a parent then the view of the Special Guardian prevails.

It isn’t just grandparents who get these orders but they are becoming increasingly common where the local authorities’ children’s services department have become involved because of child protection concerns and it is decided the children should live with the grandparents to keep them in the family.

To make your first appointment to discuss your grandchildren’s future, call us on 023 8071 7431, email familyenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk or fill in the enquiry form.

To speak to one of our experts please call us

From initial contact to the conclusion of the matter I was treated with respect and compassion.