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Divorce law blog

The right of grandparents to see their grandchildren

01/12/2014   By: Andrew Moore

It should not be forgotten that when a relationship breaks down children may not only lose contact with a parent, but also with their grandparents. With two working parent families now the norm and the high cost of child care, grandparents are regularly called upon to assist the young family and can become part of a child’s routine at an early age. Children form their key relationships in their first few years of life and maintaining contact with key adults such as grandparents is important in providing children with stability during a difficult transition in their lives.

It is therefore with some disbelief that grandparents who call us for advice find out that there is no presumption in law that they should have a relationship with their grandchildren, however involved they were in the child’s life.

Normally grandparents will spend time with their grandchildren when their son or daughter is seeing the children, but that is dependent on the grandparent being on good terms with their own child, which is not always the case.

In many cases a dispute about grandparental contact can be resolved quite quickly by the family meeting or being helped to reach agreement through mediation or negotiation. If that isn’t possible and a grandparent needs to make an application to court in their own right the first hurdle will be to ask for permission of the court to bring the application. This will involve a hearing at which the court will consider the following:

  1. The nature of the application – what the court is being asked to order and why;
  2. The connection of the grandparent with the child – the stronger the connection the more likely the permission is granted.
  3. Any risks that the application will disrupt the child's life to such an extent that he would be harmed by it – for example if the child would be negatively exposed to the family discord; and
  4. Where the local authority is involved, what the plans are for the child’s future and the wishes and feelings of the parents.

If the grandparent can overcome the permission hurdle the court will then need to consider what is in the child’s best interest, as well as the frequency and type of contact that takes places, whether that is face to face or indirect, for example through telephone calls, emails or cards.

Andrew Moore

Associate (Family Lawyer)

Manchester

 




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