Do grandparents have a right to see grandchildren after a divorce?

For many families, grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Whether that’s living in an intergenerational home, sharing stories, school pickups, or celebrating special occasions together.  So news of a separation or divorce may leave you feeling worried about whether your contact with your grandchild will be affected. Here’s what you need to know.

As a grandparent, you do not have an automatic legal right to see your grandchild if a parent stops you seeing them. But there may be a few steps you can take.  If you’re not sure of your options, book our free 15 minute legal consultation.

What You Can Do

You can try to get help in seeing your grandchild through:

  • an informal, family-based arrangement with both parents.
  • independent mediation.
  • if this does not work you can ask the court for permission to apply for a court order. You apply for permission on the same form as the court order application.

We explain more about each option below.

Informal Agreement

It’s always easier and better for everyone if you can reach an agreement yourselves. Depending on the situation or level of conflict, the first thing you should do is try and speak to both parents. Explain how much you miss your grandchildren and want to be a part of their lives.  Do your best to remain civil with everyone. Remember that anything you do or say could be used as evidence if you later choose to apply for a court order. That means anything you write down, whether in emails, on social media, or elsewhere e.g. Facebook comments or WhatsApp messages.

If you need to talk about how you’re feeling, find someone you can trust or ask your GP about counselling.

Mediation

An independent family mediator can help you and family members work out an agreement. Your mediator will organise a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’ (MIAM). This is designed to help families reach agreements following divorce or separation, including those involving children. You must attend a meeting about mediation before you can apply to a court, unless you’re exempt. The mediator who facilitated your mediation meeting must sign the court order to confirm you attended the meeting.

Applying To Court

Where possible, going to court should be the last option. It can be a costly and lengthy process. You can go to court yourself and do not need to use a solicitor.  If you do choose to use a family law solicitor, they will be able to help show the court how your grandchild’s life will benefit from your relationship with them. You will have to pay a £215 court fee. You may be able to get help paying the fee.

Only people with parental responsibility can apply for a court order. As grandparents do not have parental responsibility, you will need to seek the court’s permission to apply for a court order. It is rare that a court would refuse the grandparents permission to make an application.

If permission is granted, the court will set a date for a hearing and invite everyone with parental responsibility to attend. The court will decide whether or not you can spend time with the child, and if so, what sort of contact would be in the child’s interest. For example, an order might state that you can only have contact by telephone or letters (indirect contact).  The approach for every application will be case specific and focuses on the best interests of the child and the consideration of matters contained in section 1 of the Children Act 1989.

The court will consider different issues when making their decision – for example, the reason for the application, the child’s connection with their grandparents or any safeguarding issues. You may find it helpful to show the role you played in your grandchild’s life before the separation or divorce.

We hope you’ve found this post helpful – please note it does not replace legal advice.  If you need more information or advice, please contact our experienced team of family lawyers on 01274 727373. We offer advice and support in English, French, Urdu and Punjabi.

About SKB Law

SKB Law is an award-winning family law supporting clients across England & Wales. We offer a range of legal and mediation services. If you need to know your options, book our free 15 minute legal consultation. In many situations, early legal support can help tackle problems before they happen.

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