This informative article, “Grandparent’s rights”, written by Sarah Whitelegge, from Myerson, our trusted family law solicitors in Altrincham, discusses the options a grandparent has if they would like to gain contact with their grandchildren, as well as how the court will decide to grant permission.
At Myerson, we regularly get asked whether grandparents have legal rights to see their grandchildren.
When parents separate, it can also cause difficulties for children and extended family members. Grandparents may find themselves in a situation where their relationship with the parent with whom the grandchildren live has broken down, which means that they can miss out on spending time with them.
Trying to resolve matters outside of court
It is generally better for children if their parents and grandparents can reach an agreement. If you can reach an agreement together, the agreement is more likely to work in the long term and be respected by the wider family.
Mediation is a process where an independent, trained mediator helps you and the other party to try and reach an agreement about the arrangements for the grandchildren.
Mediators are trained to help you discuss and agree on the best arrangements for the future, and mediation can provide somewhere to talk calmly as well as being a cost-effective solution.
What If An Agreement Cannot Be Reached?
When separating parents cannot agree on the arrangements for children, they can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. A Child Arrangements Order is an order that decides:
- With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with
- When the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person
Although it is generally recognised that grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, grandparents do not generally have an automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangements Order to spend time with their grandchildren.
Grandparents who do not have an automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangements Order must first obtain permission from the court to proceed with an application.
Before making an application to the court, grandparents would first need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see if the matter was suitable for mediation.
How will the court decide whether to grant permission?
When considering an application by a grandparent for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, the court will consider the following:
- the nature of the proposed application
- the applicant’s connection with child, and
- the risk of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that the child would be harmed by it.
Whilst there is no presumption that contact with a grandparent or other extended family member is in the child’s best interest, the courts recognise the value to a child of contact with extended family members and grandparents.
If permission is granted, then a grandparent will be able to proceed with the substantive application for a Child Arrangements Order (or child contacts order) and if successful, make contact arrangements.
How does the court decide what should happen?
The first concern of the court is the child’s welfare. The Children Act 1989 provides a list of considerations that the court will consider when making a decision including: –
- The wishes and feelings of the child concerned
- The child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision
- The child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristics that will be relevant to the court’s decision
- Any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering
- The capability of the child’s parents in meeting the child’s needs
- The powers available to the court
The court must be satisfied that making an order is better for the child than not making an order at all.
The family team at Myerson LLP are accredited members of Resolution. We are committed to promoting a constructive approach to family issues that considers the needs of the whole family.
Sarah advises on a wide range of family matters including divorce, dissolution of civil partnerships, financial settlements, separation, co-habitation, pre and postnuptial agreements, disputes regarding children and domestic violence. She is particularly experienced in matters concerning complex children matters and has experience of dealing with applications for child arrangement orders, prohibited steps orders, specific issue orders, and special guardianship orders. Sarah has been practicing family law since 2007 and obtained her Resolution Accredited Specialist status in 2016.