Grandparents Rights to Contact with Grandchildren

12 September 2017

By Family & Divorce Solicitor Rachael Longman

It’s not uncommon for grandparents to apply to the Court for contact with their grandchildren, especially if there have been difficulties between the parents of the children, which has led to contact being stopped or limited.

Grandparents in England and Wales do not have an automatic right to apply for contact with their grandchildren.

Court Applications

In most circumstances contact arrangements can be negotiated through a Family Solicitor without the need to attend Court.

But if the relationship has broken down significantly between the parents and grandparents, there will be a need to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. Most commonly the application relates to the grandparents being able to spend time with their grandchildren.

Grandparents can make an application to the Court for a grandchild to live with them. These applications would usually be made in circumstances were one parent is not able to look after a child, and therefore the grandparent is putting themselves forward as an alternative carer. These applications are less common.

Before an application is even made to Court, grandparents have to attend at a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting (MIAM). Attendance at this meeting is compulsory if an application is to be made to the Court. Yet again, there may be an exemption available, for example if the grandchild is at risk of significant harm.

At the present time grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. This means that to make the application, the grandparent would usually have to seek the permission of the Court. However there are circumstances when permission is not required, which a Solicitor will be able to advise you on.

The Court will consider each application individually, and will look at a number of criteria when deciding whether to grant permission for an application to be made by a grandparent. The Court will firstly consider the welfare needs of any children, and whether if by allowing an application to go ahead, it would cause risk or harm to a child. The Court will look at the nature of the application, and the applicant’s connection to the child or children. The Court will also have to consider the views of the parents. 

If permission is granted, the Court will then review the application based on the welfare of any children involved. At the current time there is no presumption that a child should have contact with a grandparent, so it’s important that before making any application to the Court, you get expert legal advice.

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