What Rights Do Grandparents Have Concerning Contact?


26 September 2022

By Farhad Islam

The role played by grandparents in a child’s upbringing is often underestimated. One of the consequences of a family and relationship breakdown is that grandparents can find themselves ostracised and ultimately miss out on their grandchildren’s adolescent years. It is extremely important therefore that we understand and indeed appreciate the key role grandparents play in the lives of children.

Do grandparents have a right to see their grandchildren?

The law does not presently grant grandparents an automatic right to see their grandchildren. Only someone with ‘parental responsibility’ for a child has an automatic right to see that child. Grandparents cannot obtain parental responsibility automatically – this can only be obtained by them with a Child Arrangements Order granted by a Court.

Parental responsibility refers to the legal rights, responsibilities, and authority that someone has over a child. Someone with parental responsibility is entitled to be consulted and for their consent to be obtained when any major decisions regarding the child(ren)’s upbringing are being made which, for example include health, schools/education, religion etc.

How can grandparents secure contact with their grandchildren?

In the event of a relationship breakdown, the best course of action would be to try to maintain contact with the grandchildren. This will entail maintaining communication with both parents and adopting a neutral position, with the intention to avoid choosing a side, but rather provide support for each party (which, of course, is not always possible). All communication should relate strictly to the children.

If an agreement with the parents is not possible, then assistance from the Courts may be unavoidable. However, unlike those with parental responsibility, grandparents cannot make an immediate application for a Court Order. Grandparents must first seek the Court’s permission to make the application for the Order, without which it will not be possible to proceed any further.

Will a court grant grandparents the right to see their grandchildren?

The factors the Court will give consideration to when deciding an application for permission are as follows:

  • the grandparent’s connection and relationship with the child(ren);
  • The nature of the application for contact (what contact arrangements are being sought etc);
  • What risk (if any) would contact with the grandparents pose to the children;
  • What affect would the continuation of contact have on the wider family.

The Court will, more often than not, grant permission. Once the permission is granted, the Court will apply the same principles as those applied for a parent making an application for a Child Arrangements Order i.e. what contact is in the children’s best interest. The children’s welfare will be at the fore of the Court’s decision making.

The parents have a right to defend the application both for permission and contact. In circumstances where parents do object to the application(s), the matter will proceed to a final contested hearing. At this hearing, all the parties will be expected to provide oral evidence before a Judge/Magistrates. The Judge/Magistrates will then decide whether or not to grant the application(s).

Get expert help with grandparents’ rights

If you are being prevented from having access to your grandchildren, then Gepp Solicitors will provide the necessary assistance and support in order to change this.

To find out how our child law solicitors in Essex can help you with grandparents’ rights, please feel free to get in touch.

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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