Grandparents fulfil an important role in their grandchildren's lives both from a developmental and very often a practical perspective by providing childcare when the parents work.
Their close involvement with their grandchildren builds strong bonds between them.
However, when the parental relationship breaks down or ends through bereavement, they can find that the ease with which they previously saw their grandchildren is gone.
They can be the unwitting victims of the emotional fallout from the breakdown of the parents' relationship.
Often, they will be prevented by one parent from seeing the grandchildren. In those circumstances, it may shock the grandparents to learn that they have no automatic right in law to see or care for their grandchildren.
Asking For Rights To See Grandchildren
Whilst there are no automatic rights conferred on grandparents by the court to make an application, they can ask the court for permission to do so.
Permission is often readily granted in these circumstances.
The court will consider the following:
- The applicant’s connection with the child.
- The nature of the application for contact
- Whether the application may be potentially harmful to the child's well-being.
Grandparents Seeking Rights To See Grandchildren: What Happens Next?
Suppose permission is granted to make an application to see the grandchildren. In that case, the court will apply the same process as a parent making an application for a child arrangements order.
The guiding principle in children's applications is to decide matters "in the best interests of the children".
To determine what this is, there may be the need for witness statements from the grandparents and parents, the involvement of the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS), the appointment of a Guardian ad litem to represent the children and even on occasions, expert reports. The court will consider all the children's circumstances before deciding whether to make an order.
Whilst the above may all sound a little daunting, it is essential to appreciate that the court fully recognises the importance grandparents play in the lives of children.
A parent cannot simply decide to cut a grandparent out of their children’s lives despite whatever they may feel about their former partner.
Given the right circumstances, a court will make an order for the grandparents to see the grandchildren even where the relevant parent abjectly refuses to agree to it. If the parent does not comply, the court will enforce the order and has at its disposal the right to fine them and, as a last resort, commit them to prison.
How Monan Mozzett Can Help
We at Monan Gozzett have particular expertise in representing Grandparents in these matters, even in the most intractable disputes.
In most cases, an agreed way forward can be negotiated to allow the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren to flourish again.
But if the court needs to determine this, we will robustly pursue your application to its conclusion.