Do you have a legal right to see your grandchildren?
Grandparents play an increasingly important role in modern family life and grandchildren’s upbringing. However, many grandparents have found that their relationship with their grandchildren has been significantly impacted by coronavirus.
Whilst there are ways that contact is still allowed, through either being in a support or childcare bubble, for the majority, the on-going pandemic has unfortunately prevented many grandparents from seeing their grandchildren.
As lockdown measures ease and eventually end, there will gradually be more freedom and opportunities for grandparents to see their grandchildren. However, the recent pandemic has caused or accentuated tensions and disagreements between many couples, so if a child’s parents separate, what are the grandparents’ rights?
Do grandparents have a right to see their grandchildren?
Unfortunately, as a grandparent, you do not have a legal right to have contact with your grandchildren. When parents separate, it is normally up to them to decide who spends time with who, and when. The sad reality is that parental separation can have an adverse effect on your relationship with your grandchildren.
Requesting access to grandchildren
If one or both parents are stopping you seeing from spending time with your grandchildren, there are several legal options available that allow you to request access.
If you’ve been denied contact or you’re worried about losing contact with your grandchildren, our specialist child law solicitors can advise you on your options and guide you through the legal process to request access.
Try not to take sides
If the parents are separating and you are anxious about losing contact, your first priority should be to remain neutral.
We advise approaching either parent to explain your concerns and reassert your wish for you to continue having regular contact with your grandchildren.
Our expectation is that most parents will offer reassurances that contact with your grandchildren will continue. Where physical contact is not be possible, for example, during lockdown or if the grandchildren move elsewhere, there are alternative ways of having contact indirectly such as using FaceTime or Zoom.
Don’t forget that family breakdowns can be enormously stressful and people deal with the pressures of separation in very different ways. Give the parents the space they need and it may be that the time spent apart from your grandchildren is only temporary.
I’m being refused access to my grandchildren, what can I do?
If you feel that too much time has passed since you had reasonable contact with your grandchildren and the parents are refusing further access, or you haven’t got the reassurances you were hoping for, it’s important to speak to a child law solicitor who specialises in grandparents’ rights. They can draft a simple letter on your behalf that outlines why you feel that contact with your grandchildren is so important. Having a formal letter should do the trick, but if it doesn’t, there are further options.
An independent family mediator can be used to help families discuss the issues and reach an agreement for moving forward with grandparents’ contact with their grandchildren. Mediation is usually required to have been attempted before applying to court and can be a less adversarial and costly route. However, it does not always work and applying to court may end up being the more appropriate option. An experienced solicitor will be able to advise you on next steps if mediation does not work.
Applying to the court for contact
Estranged parents and those with parental responsibility have the right to go to court to ask to see their children. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to grandparents’ rights. Instead you have to apply to the court for permission to bring any court application.
When you make your court application to see your grandchildren, the court will need to consider several factors, including the relationship between you and your grandchild and whether your application is likely to be disruptive to them.
Applying for a Child Arrangements Order
If permission to apply for an order is granted, the court will eventually have to decide if, when and how you will see your grandchild or grandchildren, and will regulate your time with them.
You should speak to a specialist family law solicitor before you make an application for a court order. Court intervention is costly, however, and offers no guarantees. You should therefore make sure that you’ve exhausted all other options before going down this route.
If the court decides that contact between you and your grandchild is in the child’s best interest, they may grant a Child Arrangements Order to this effect.
Contact our grandparents’ rights solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire
If you’re a grandparent and you’re worried about contact with your grandchildren, contact our specialist children law solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.