The legal rights parents have over seeing their children are well-documented, but do the same rules apply for grandparents? To find out more, read on…
As a grandparent, you would likely do anything to be able to see your grandchildren on a regular basis. While this isn’t a problem for many grandparents, there are certain situations where family relationships are strained. This may lead to disagreements concerning who is able to spend time with the children.
So, do you have a legal right to see your grandchildren? That’s what this post will be answering, as well as detailing exactly what options are available to grandparents who have potentially been cut off from spending time with them.
Put simply, grandparents do not have any automatic legal rights to see their grandchildren. This means if the child’s parent chooses to prevent you from seeing them, you won’t be able to go against their wishes.
However, this doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of reaching a solution that enables you to see your grandchildren. For example, you can take one of the following actions:
It’s fortunate that courts are increasingly recognising the important contribution that grandparents make to their grandchildren’s lives. For that reason, it’s usually possible to apply to a family court for permission to apply for a Contact Order.
A Contact Order will set out exactly what access to your grandchildren you will be allowed. However, you will only be allowed to apply for one after a number of factors are taken into consideration, these being:
As you might expect, the parents will have the opportunity to contest the Contact Order if they wish. In this instance, you’ll have to attend a court hearing, where a judge will make the final decision on whether the Contact Order should be granted.
In certain situations, applying for a Contact Order isn’t necessary. It’s often in everyone’s best interests to work through the matter to find a voluntary resolution. This can be done through collaborative dispute resolution methods, such as or collaborative law.
Mediation involves sitting down with a trained mediator, who acts a neutral third-party, hosting a meeting between the relevant parties to discuss the issue at hand and keep conflict to a minimum.
Collaborative law is a more formal approach and involves both parties meeting with their respective lawyers to come to a resolution.
If your grandchildren’s parents are denying you direct (face-to-face) contact, then it is still possible to contact them indirectly. This could involve writing, texting or phoning them.
It goes without saying that you should avoid going behind the parent’s backs when it comes to indirect contact. If you intend to keep in touch with your grandchildren this way, you should always be open and honest. In the long run, this could help to build up trust and allow you to see your grandchildren properly in the future.
Certain circumstances may call for a more permanent solution – taking custody of your grandchildren. This is a possibility, and there are a number of different options that can be explored:
A is a court order which will provide you with full parental responsibility for your grandchild. This means your grandchild will live, or continue to live with you, and you will be able to make most of the decisions about their upbringing for as long as the Residence Order is in place.
Residence Orders do not affect your grandchildren’s legal relationships with their parents, nor do they remove their parental responsibility. You will share parental responsibility with the parents.
Again, the parent’s will still have parental responsibility themselves, which means they will still have a legal link with their children.
If you feel as though it’s appropriate to do so, it is possible to adopt your grandchildren. Once you have adopted them, you will have full parental responsibility, and the link between them and their parents will be broken. You will legally act as their parent.
If you grandchildren’s parents unfortunately pass away, it does not necessarily mean that you will get an automatic legal right to see them. A guardian will normally be appointed in the parent’s Wills, who will then take full parental responsibility and control over who the child sees.
If there is no Will present, and no guardian as a result, the court will appoint a guardian. This will usually be a close family member, which means you may be appointed to look after them.
As you can see, the subject of contact arrangements for grandparents is a complex one. In many cases, the final decision regarding the level of contact you can obtain will be entirely context driven.
It’s important to understand that, while you don’t have an automatic legal right to see your grandchildren, there are plenty of options at your disposal which you can look in to as you see fit.
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