Grandparents often enjoy a special bond with their grandchildren and it is one that parents usually treasure. However sometimes, whether through a family fall out or because parents divorce or separate, grandparents are prevented from seeing their grandchildren, or have their access severely restricted.
Although the Ministry of Justice is currently considering requests from MPs to change the law to give grandparents a legal right to see their grandchildren, under current UK law there is no such right to access. Your right to see your grandchildren is entirely at the discretion of the children’s parents (or those with parental responsibility).
Fiona Yellowlees family law solicitor at WBW Solicitors, outlines what legal rights you have to see your grandchildren and how a lawyer can help if you are being denied access.
‘If your access to your grandchildren has been curtailed or cut off completely, your first step should be trying to talk to the parents and reach an agreement on access informally,’ says Fiona.
‘A chat beforehand with a family solicitor – who is experienced at helping families work through their differences – could help you set out and present reasons more clearly.’
Many families find it beneficial to engage the services of a family law mediator to enable them to sit together and help them reach an agreement. Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding and confidential process where a neutral third party helps family members talk through their issues to try and reach an amicable settlement.
Asking the court for a child arrangements order
If this approach does not work, you could apply to the family court to ask for a Child Arrangements Order allowing you to spend time with your grandchildren. You will need to show that you have at least attended a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you make your application to court.
A family law solicitor can help you to present reasons to clearly explain to the court why it would be beneficial to your grandchildren to be able to see you.
When considering your application, the court will consider factors such as:
- The wishes of your grandchildren, if they are old enough to give an opinion;
- Any relevant needs or particular characteristics of your grandchildren;
- The likely effect on your grandchildren of you entering their life if you weren’t previously, or of you not being involved with them any more if you were before; and
- The opinions of the parents (or those with parental responsibility), or of the local authority where your grandchildren are in care. Social workers and child psychologists may also be consulted.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.