What rights do grandparents have to see their grandchildren?
The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is unlike any other. It can offer a level of support and understanding that can’t be found with other relatives and is often a vital part of a child’s upbringing.
Unfortunately, in the UK, grandparents do not have automatic rights to see their grandchildren. However, if you’re a grandparent and are currently being prevented from seeing your grandchildren then there are options available. Here we explain how you can maintain access and keep the relationship going.
How do I get to see my grandchildren?
The most common reason for grandparents not to be able to see their grandchildren is relationship breakdown. This could be between a grandparent and their children, or between the grandchildren’s parents. Either way, the separation can be upsetting for the grandparents and the grandchildren.
Speak to their parents
Before turning to legal action you should first try and speak to the parent that is preventing contact with your grandchildren. By having an honest conversation, the parent may begin to change their mind about access. Just remember that having a quick chat is unlikely to cause an immediate change of attitude, so this may have several conversations. Therefore, it’s vital not to threaten legal action after only one or two conversations, as this could increase tensions unnecessarily.
If initial conversations don’t go to plan, then mediation might be a good route to try, whether this is with a professional or another family member. Only after these options have failed should you consider making an application to the court..
Child arrangements order
You can ask the court for permission to apply for a court order – unfortunately, grandparents don’t have the same automatic right to go straight in and apply for a court order in the same way that parents do. Thankfully, family courts do recognise the importance and valuable role that grandparents can play in their grandchildren's’ lives so it’s likely that permission will be granted to allow you to make the application for a child arrangements court order for contact.
The child arrangements order will determine who your grandchildren will have contact with and for how long. You can read more about child arrangement orders generally in our guide to making child arrangements during a divorce or separation.
What if my grandchildren’s parents break the child arrangement order?
If you have obtained a child arrangements order to see your grandchildren, and their parent does not adhere to this order, then you can return the matter to court and request that the order is enforced.
Will a change in my grandchildren’s circumstances change my grandparent’s rights?
If there has been a change of circumstances, such as parental separation or the death of one or both of their parents, unfortunately, the same provisions still apply - no matter how harsh this may seem.
Getting help with seeing your grandchildren
Family breakdowns can be emotional and difficult for everyone involved. However, what is usually overlooked is the emotional distress caused by a loss of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. We will be with you every step of the way.
If you’re a grandparent and are experiencing barriers with having contact with your grandchildren then we can help. Speak to one of our family lawyers to discuss the options available to ensure you don’t lose touch and maintain that vital relationship.
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Helen works with clients to ensure that they are sensitively guided through the complex area of family and relationship breakdown.
Helen has over twenty years’ of experience in advising clients in relation to family law issues.