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Children and Grandparents Rights

“I practically raised my grandchildren for the first few years of their lives and am very close to them. Unfortunately, my son recently passed away and now their mother refuses that I see them. Is there anything I can do?”

We are frequently asked what are grandparents rights when they have been denied contact to their grandchildren? The sad truth is that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren. However, family courts do recognise the invaluable role that grandparents have to play in the lives of their grandchildren. It is very rare that the court would refuse a grandparent contact with their grandchildren, unless there is evidence of abuse or violence.

What are Grandparents Legal Rights?

Only people with legal parental responsibility, for example parents, step-parents or guardians can make an application for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO). A CAO covers such things as with whom a child lives and the how much time is spent with a non-resident parent or grandparents.  Whilst grandparents’ rights are limited they can, however, apply to the Family Court for permission to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order. The court will consider the following:

  • The applicant’s connection with the child
  • The type and frequency of contact being sought
  • Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way

In most cases, you first have to attend a mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to assess whether mediation may be a suitable way of resolving your case before you can apply for a CAO.

You can apply for a CAO through the Family Court to see your grandchildren. There are many children who, for various reasons, including death or divorce of one, or both of their parents, end up being looked after by their grandparents full-time.

Grandparents can also apply to the court for a “live-with” CAO. If successful, this will confer on the grandparents’ legal rights they would not otherwise have.

If one, or both parents raise objections you are likely to have to attend a full hearing in which both parties can put forward their evidence. It is essential that you receive good legal advice at this stage because you will need to persuade the court that you have a meaningful and on-going relationship with your grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.

When the court is deciding whether to grant a CAO, the child’s welfare is its primary consideration.  It has to follow the ‘welfare checklist’, which covers lots of points including the child’s wishes and feelings, their needs and the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances.  The court will usually ask either the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (CAFCASS) or Children’s Services to prepare a welfare report.

The court will always consider all the child’s circumstances and must only make an order 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. It is only in extreme circumstances that a court will refuse access to grandchildren. We have successfully helped many grandparents resolve disputes amicably and gain access to their grandchildren.

If you need help with being able to spend time with your grandchildren, please call us and speak with one of our dedicated, sympathetic experts.

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