Do Grandparents have rights?

Do Grandparents have “rights”?

This is often a question asked of Family lawyers particularly if a grandparent may be losing or have lost contact with their grandchildren because of the divorce or separation of the children’s parents or because of a family feud or relationship breakdown between grandparent and parent.

The bond between a grandparent and grandchild is often extremely special and if a relationship breaks down to the point of you being stopped from seeing your grandchild, it can often be an emotionally very difficult time – for both grandparent and grandchild.

Currently, in England and Wales, grandparents have no inherent right by virtue of being a “grandparent” to spend time with their grandchild. Unlike the child’s mother and father, who acquire rights and responsibilities for their child, called “Parental Responsibility”, grandparents do not have any legal rights or responsibilities towards their grandchildren or a legal right to spend time with them.

However, although a grandparent may not have a “right” to spend time with their grandchildren, society and the Family Law Courts do recognise that grandparents often play a huge role in a grandchild’s life both emotionally and practically. In 2015 research suggested 63% of all grandparents with grandchildren under the age of 16 helped out their parents with childcare and 1 in 5 grandmothers provided at least 10 hours of childcare a week.

The Family Court.

If a grandparent is prevented from having a relationship with their grandchild following a relationship breakdown, then it is possible for a grandparent to approach the Family Court for permission to make an application to be able to spend time with their grandchild.

If permission is granted by a judge, then an application can be made to the Court under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, seeking a Child Arrangements Order be made for the grandparent to spend time with their grandchild/ren.

As part of the application a judge must consider whether spending time with their grandparent is in the child’s best interests and consider what is known as the Welfare Checklist, as a child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration. If a judge rules that it is in the child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with their grandparent, then a Child Arrangements Order may be made confirming that either those arrangements can begin or can continue.

Court Alternatives.

Here at Forrester Sylvester Mackett, we appreciate that not every grandparent will want to make a formal application to the Family Court, and we are always happy to discuss alternative approaches to resolving conflict with our clients.

Grandparents may consider attending family mediation with their grandchild’s parents. Depending on the family’s circumstances and grandchildren’s ages, the grandchild/children could also be included in that process, known as “Child-Inclusive mediation”.

Mediation fosters a more amicable approach to resolving conflict in the hope that an application to the Family Court may be avoided.

Here to help you.

Our expert Family Law department at Forrester Sylvester Mackett offer an initial free 30-minute appointment to grandparents who might be affected by a relationship breakdown and spending time with their grandchildren.

As members of Resolution, we follow their code of conduct promoting a constructive and non-confrontational approach to helping you resolve matters. We find this approach reduces the emotional temperature and increases the chances of reaching an agreement through negotiation.

Our specialist Family Law team are happy to discuss with you, in confidence, your options and whether an application to the Family Court or an alternative dispute resolution method, such as family mediation, may be appropriate in your own individual circumstances. Contact us on enquiries@fsmsolicitors.co.uk

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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