What are the legal rights of grandparents regarding their grandchildren?
Lester Aldridge Solicitors Life Matters for Lymington.com readers - March 2019
Nowadays grandparents are playing an ever increasing role in their grandchildren’s lives. But what legal rights do grandparents have to see their grandchildren, particularly if mum and dad decide to separate?
Free consultation with a Lester Aldridge family lawyer
The latest in the Lester Aldridge Life Matters series, this article written by Rosemary Sharp, Partner with Lester Aldridge, offers some comfort and advice to an increasing number of grandparents who only want to do the best for their grandchildren at a distressing time for all concerned. Do read the article then get in touch as below if we've struck a chord - Lester Aldridge offer a free initial consultation with a member of their highly qualified, dedicated family law team.
Grandparents often get caught in the cross fire – what can you do if this happens to you
Grandparents can often get caught in the cross fires during a separation and find themselves side-lined or prevented from seeing their grandchildren. What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?
Aim for impartiality and normality – and mediation or counselling
It is important, as grandparents, to remain impartial during a parents’ separation and try to provide a degree of normality and a safe haven for grandchildren during difficult times. Mediation or family counselling can often be a good first port of call to try and resolve these issues. It is often worthwhile seeking legal advice at an early stage to discuss possible approaches and outcomes so that you can attend mediation and/or counselling with a good idea of what to expect and what to seek from the parent(s).
However, if either one or both parents are unwilling to engage or you are unable to make progress in mediation or counselling you can apply to the Family court for assistance.
The Family court and child arrangements orders
A child arrangements order can set out the arrangements for a) where the child will live and b) with whom the child will spend time and how often. Child arrangements orders have replaced what was previously known as residence and contact orders. The Family court has to be satisfied that it is in the children’s best interest to make a child arrangements order before it will do so.
Grandparents can apply, even when grandchild’s parents still together
Although most grandparent / parent disputes arise when the parents’ relationship has broken down, it is possible for a grandparent to apply for a child arrangements order when their grandchild’s parents are still in a relationship but for some reason their time with the grandchildren has been curtailed or unilaterally stopped.
However, grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply to the Family court for a child arrangements order. You have to apply to the Family court for permission to make the application. It is acknowledged by the Family court that grandparents play an important role in children’s lives and they therefore tend to look upon such applications for permission favourably. However, you will need to demonstrate your relationship with the child, what time you are seeking to see the child and that your application would not be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being.
Once you have obtained permission from the court you can proceed with your application for a child arrangements order. The court will consider the facts of each individual case and consider the child’s welfare as paramount when deciding what arrangements to make, if any, in relation to the child.
More than one child arrangements order can be made in relation to a child. If there is already a child arrangements order in place setting out where the child lives and when they spend time with their parents, there can also be another child arrangements order in place setting the time the child spends with their grandparents.
Although court proceedings are never a favourable way of resolving issues about a child, it is important grandparents are aware of the legal options available to them. Grandparents should seek legal advice at an early stage to ensure they are in the best position possible to maintain and, if necessary, apply to the Family court to restore their relationship with their grandchildren.
The Lester Aldridge family law team - guiding and helping you in difficult times
The most important thing to say is that whatever your individual circumstances, the Lester Aldridge team of family solicitors Jane Porter, Joanne Clark and Rosemary Sharp can help you through this difficult time.
The breakdown of any relationship is of course often stressful and emotionally charged. Whilst every situation is different, reducing hostility and conflict is essential. The Lester Aldridge approach aims always to minimise unnecessary disputes and to get you the best outcome possible.
The Lester Aldridge family divorce solicitors are members of Resolution, the professional body that encourages a non-confrontational approach to resolving family disputes. The aim is to be fair but firm, but when necessary a robust approach will of course be adopted to deal with difficult and opposing points of view.
Expert advice and exceptional client support
Lester Aldridge’s clients trust the team to provide high quality family law advice and exceptional client support in the most challenging of circumstances.
Pictured here is Rosemary Sharp, member of the family law team and author of this article.
The broad knowledge of the team also provides the ability to think about wider issues for you and your family such as pensions, tax and family businesses - and to direct you to the very best people to help you. Get in touch for a free initial consultation: