Access denied: how grandparents are taking action to see their grandchildren
What rights do grandparents have for access to grandchildren?
What rights do grandchildren have to contact with their grandparents?
Ordinarily and dependent on age and understanding, once grandchildren are aged 10 or over, the court will take their views into account when assessing access. For children aged under 10 years, the court will assess what is in the best interests of the child, and this may include having access to their grandparents.
What is involved in court action?
First of all, as experienced family lawyers, we would encourage you as a grandparent to try and resolve the question of access through mediation before considering court action. It’s a lot less stressful and can be more productive in the long run, as it maintains a level of good will that court action may remove. Mediation also releases you as parents from the position of allocating blame in court.
Should mediation not work out, you will need to seek a Contact Order via the courts. However, grandparents have no automatic right to apply to the courts for a Contact Order for grandchildren. Only those with parental responsibility can make an application for a Contact Order, so grandparents first need to apply for permission (leave) to apply for a Contact Order. In this, grandparents must show:
- their connection with the grandchild
- why they are applying for contact
- that their application will not be harmful to the child in any way
It’s important that you get proper legal advice at this point, as you will need to show the court that you have an established, meaningful relationship with your grandchildren, and that your continued involvement will have benefits to them.
If leave to apply is granted, then the court will usually appoint a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) officer to make a report. A full hearing may follow if the parents don’t agree with the report. If the court then rules in favour of you as the grandparent/s, which involves them assessing that your involvement won’t have a negative impact on other family relationships, a Contact Order will usually be issued. This Contact Order can be:
- direct contact – children meet you or stay with you
- indirect contact – via letter, email, phone calls, presents, etc
- supervised contact – if there are concerns about the child’s safety
How Leiper Gupta Family Lawyers can help
As shown above, applying for access is not a straightforward matter, so we encourage grandparents to take advantage of our free 30 minute consultation to discuss their particular circumstance with us first.
As highly experienced family lawyers, and members of both the Law Society’s Children panel and Resolution, we can help you through this delicate and often emotionally difficult process. Call us on 01189 739749 and we’ll do our very best to ensure you and your grandchildren can look forward to a future together.
photo credit: Norm and Logan by Jamie Bradway at flickr.com