Rights for Grandparents

Grandparents can play an important and integral role in a child’s life. Unfortunately, when a relationship breaks down in acrimony, the grandparents can often be shut out of the child’s life by the parent who has primary custody. In our experience, this occurs more frequently in circumstances where the parents were not married and the father has limited access to the child or children.

If you are a grandparent with a pressing family law matter and want to know your rights, MM Family Law can advise you on the legal options and rights available to you.

Unfortunately, grandparents do not automatically have a right to access to their grandchildren, but they do have options.

The Children Act 1997 provides that grandparents can apply to their local District Court for access to their grandchildren.

It is important to note however that the Act does not give a right of access, it only gives a right to apply for access. The process is twofold in that grandparents must first apply to their local District Court for “leave to bring an application”. In simple terms this means that a grandparent must first get permission from the Court before they can bring their application for access.

The Court takes a number of factors into consideration in deciding whether to grant permission to bring the application. The Court must have regard to:

  • The wishes of the child’s guardian are taken into account
  • The connection the grandparent has with the child (e.g. they used to see them on a regular basis and spend quality time with them)
  • Whether allowing access would disrupt the child’s life

If grandparents are successful at this first stage, they can then go on to make the second Application to the Court for the access itself. The District Court Judge will hear evidence from both sides before making a decision in the matter.

In these trying and upsetting times, there is the option to go to the Family Court for assistance if the parents of your grandchild/grandchildren are keeping them from you.

Grandparents don’t have automatic rights to apply to court for orders in relation to their grandchildren, so you first will need to apply for permission to proceed before seeking a court order which will grant you permission to see your grandchildren.

Taking action too soon could lead to unnecessarily elevated hostilities within the family. However, if there is a significant delay in resolving the issues, this can cause emotional harm to the children. It is a delicate balancing act. Therefore, initial advice from a specialist family law solicitor is recommended

Why MM Family Law?                            

We have a team of experienced solicitors who can guide you through this emotionally draining time. Our team has dealt with disputes involving grandchildren and can advise you on what steps to take in order to achieve the best result for everyone.

We have extensive experience representing clients in all aspects of child law. Our skills in this area have helped grandparents to reconnect with their grandchildren.

A balanced approach must be taken before deciding to embark on litigation so that hostilities between the parties are not made worse.

Mediation can help families resolve disputes in relation to issues of access without recourse to the courts.

There are a number of mediation services available and the family mediation service is a free professional and confidential service which provides mediation support in a family law context.

Mediation is not compulsory and it is up to the individuals involved to decide whether mediation would be beneficial in their particular circumstances.

The welfare of the child must remain the paramount consideration. If you have any questions about this, or any other aspect of family law, please get in touch.