If your relationship with your grandchildren is ended unilaterally then thankfully you don’t have to sit there and bear it! You have steps that you can take. Usually it’s not your fault and can happen for many reasons; perhaps where the parents have separated when “sides” can be chosen, or for some lesser reason or even sometimes when parents feel like their toes are being stepped on!
Making lawful decisions about the children usually requires a concept known as “Parental Responsibility” Parents usually get this when their children are born but Courts can agree or Order this subsequently if it is right for the children. Grandparents can acquire it. Unless you have parental responsibility for the child, you have no automatic rights of access to them. Essentially, this means that as a grandparent, without parental responsibility, you cannot start proceedings for contact through a Child Arrangements Order without first obtaining the Courts permission.
Unless you have parental responsibility for the child, you have no automatic rights of access to them.
However, the law recognises that in certain situations it is in the child’s best interests for contact to take place. Grandparents are often seen as not only great babysitters! but are fundamental in helping children develop an understanding of their family roots. Grandparents can be and usually are a very valuable and important relationship for children.
To avoid problems with the issue of not having parental responsibility you would need to ask the court for “leave”. This is permission to seek an Order. The Court will always consider what is in the best interests for the child first and foremost and each matter is decided on the merits of the case but it will be necessary to prove: –
- That you have or at least did have a stable and positive relationship with your grandchild; and
- that a risk of any family fallout or tensions in future (that may be witnessed by the child) is outweighed by the positives a relationship with you will have.
We can help you put a case together to start proceedings and seek contact through a Child Arrangements Order. Since you are already at a stage where access has been halted by those with parental responsibility, it is likely that they will contest or oppose any application you make seeking a contact order. Whilst this may prolong the proceedings the Court will ensure that there are no unnecessary delays.
Before any application is made you will need to consider or undertake some Mediation to try and resolve any issues between you and the parents. If mediation is successful it will mean a more streamlined and less costly way forward.
Sadly, legal aid will almost certainly not be available to fund these applications as they involve private law matters and therefore they will need privately funding. But in 2010, Parliament began reading a proposed Bill named the Grandparents (Access Rights) Bill which hoped to ease the overall process. Although Parliamentary time has currently expired and the position remains unchanged at the time being there are groups who are actively petitioning the Government to make changes in this area of law and many Grandparents (and lawyers!) hope there will be some positive changes in the very near future.
Please feel free to contact us for a no obligation appointment so we can discuss any issues with you directly. We can offer a flexible approach to costs and have a range of professionals to choose from.
Posted on March 13, 2018