Access denied: how grandparents are taking action to see their grandchildren

A news item this week highlighted the very real pain felt by grandparents who are denied access or lose contact with their grandchildren after couples separate. The saddest statistic of all was that of approximately 2,500 sets of grandparents that went to court last year to try and gain access to grandchildren, in the majority of cases, these applications were brought by the paternal grandparents.

It’s an issue keenly felt by both grandparent and fathers pressure groups. The website “Separated Dads” points out that:
“Grandparents are a huge asset to any family. Not only do they have a lot of love to give to their grandchildren, but these days they’re often called on as carers while the parents are at work. They play a vital role in the family.”

grandfather grandson

The Grandparents Association website FAQ section is almost entirely devoted to the issue of access to grandchildren, including “tactful” ways to try and resolve issues before it reaches the point of needing court intervention.

What rights do grandparents have for access to grandchildren?

Grandparents have no formal legal right to access, but can apply for contact through the courts under Section 8 of the Children’s Act 1989.

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