It is a sad truth that when families are separated, not only does the non-resident parent have to come to terms with a new arrangement but grandparents are very often affected too. Unlike parents, grandparents’ rights to contact with their grandchildren are not automatic. When this situation occurs, it can be upsetting for grandparents to discover they do not have the right to apply straight to the court for a child arrangement order.
Legal Parental Responsibility
Only people with legal parental responsibility, such as parents, step-parents or guardians can make an application for a Child Arrangement Order. Whilst grandparents do not have automatic rights they can, however, apply for permission (leave) to apply for a Child Arrangement Order. The courts will then carefully consider the following circumstances:
- The applicant’s connection with the child/children.
- The nature of the application for contact.
- Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way.
The family courts do recognise the invaluable and supportive role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildren’s lives. The court would rarely refuse a grandparent contact with their grandchildren unless there is evidence of abuse, violence or any other circumstance which may be harmful.
When making an application to the court for a child arrangement order, if one, or both parents raise objections to your application you are likely to have to attend a full hearing. At this hearing, both parties can submit evidence to support their position. It is essential that you receive good legal advice at this stage. You will need to be able to demonstrate to the court that you have a meaningful and continuing relationship with your grandchildren. You need to show this is of significant benefit to them.
The court will always consider all the circumstances. They need to ensure the welfare of the child/children comes first. An order will only be made where they consider it better for the child than making no order at all. For example, they might have to weigh up whether your continuing contact with the child might have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships. Again it is only in extreme circumstances that a court will refuse access to grandchildren.
Contact our family department for advice if you are having difficulties.