Grandparents play an important role in children’s lives and research has shown that they have a positive impact, particularly on adolescents and when families are going through difficult times.
A rising number of grandparents are going to court to spend time with their grandchildren. Statistics show that almost 2000 applications for child arrangements orders were made by grandparents in 2016.
The issue received press attention last month when it was debated in parliament, with MPs sharing experiences of their constituents. The last review of the law around grandparents seeing their grandchildren was the Family Justice Review in 2011. It seems that this will now be reconsidered along with other family law reforms. A Ministry of Justice spokesperson is quoted as saying “We will consider any proposals for helping children maintain involvement with grandparents, together with other potential reforms to the family justice system, which are currently being looked at.”
At TV Edwards, we are frequently contacted by grandparents who are seeking to have contact with their grandchildren. Although there is a presumption that involvement of a parent in the life of the child will further the child’s welfare (unless there are reasons to the contrary), that is not the case for other members of the family, such as grandparents. Family courts do, however, recognise the invaluable roles that grandparents have to play in their grandchildren’s lives.
Often, child arrangements can be negotiated through a family solicitor without the need to attend court. Mediation can also assist in resolving disputes without the need to go to court. However, if the relationship between the parents and grandparents has broken down significantly, there may need to be an application to the court for a child arrangements order, for the grandparents to be able to spend time with their grandchildren.
Can I make an application to the court?
Grandparents are not automatically entitled to apply for a child arrangements order, and they must obtain the permission of the court.
When deciding whether the grandparents should be given permission, the court will have particular regard to:
- The nature of the proposed application that the grandparent wishes to make
- Their connection with the child
- Any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that it would harm the child
The court may also take into account any other factors they consider relevant.
If one or both parents raise objections, there is likely to be a full court hearing where all the parties can put forward their evidence. At this stage, it is extremely beneficial to have legal advice to assist with preparing the case, to show to the court that grandparents have meaningful and ongoing relationships with their grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.
The court will always consider all the child’s circumstances, and will 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 the impact of contact with the child on other family relationships.
If you are a grandparent and would like to know more about your options or you are not happy with current arrangements regarding your grandchildren, please do not hesitate to contact our Family team on 020 3440 8000.