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What are a grandparent's rights when a marriage breaks up?

When a couple with children get divorced, it is a standard part of the process to work out what access each will have to their children. However, something that is not always considered is what relationship the children will have with their grandparents.

Grandparents are often a vital part of a child’s life, providing childcare, emotional support and many other benefits. However, under the law, grandparents have no automatic legal right to see or have contact with their grandchildren. This can mean that where the relationship between two parents has seriously broken down, grandparents on one side may end up having little or no contact with their grandchildren.

While “grandparents’ rights” are not enshrined in law, it is often possible make arrangements for contact, either through negotiation with the children’s parents or by taking court action.

Using family mediation to establish your grandparent’s rights

Where there is a dispute over your access to your grandchildren, it is usually better to try to resolve this in as amicable a way as possible. Family mediation allows you to sit down with all involved parties to discuss the issues in a calm, non-confrontational way with the goal of agreeing a solution that works for everyone.

Our trained neutral mediators can facilitate this kind of meeting, helping you to focus on the key issues and diffuse any tension or potential conflict. This approach not only prevents any personal conflicts from escalating, it can also help to repair the relationship between the parties involved in the dispute. It is also usually faster and less expensive that taking court action.

Applying for a Contact Order for your grandchildren

If it is not possible to make a voluntary agreement for access to your grandchildren, you may need to consider applying to a family court for a Contact Order. This will legally establish your right to visit and contact your grandchildren and, if a Contact Order is granted, your grandchildren’s parents will not be able to refuse you contact without breaking the law.

As a grandparent, however, you do not automatically have the right to apply for a Contact Order. Instead you will first need to make an application to a family court for permission to apply for a Contact Order. The courts will then look at the strength of your existing connection with your grandchildren (e.g. how much contact you previously had with them), how appropriate the type of access you are aiming for is and whether there is any risk of harm to the children’s wellbeing from contact with you.

If the court decides it is in your grandchildren’s best interests for you to seek a Contact Order, you will then need to submit an application for a Contact Order. If either of the children’s parents makes an objection to your application for a Contact Order, you will then usually need to attend a full court hearing for a final decision.

Crisp & Co’s child law solicitors in London and the South East have extensive experience in all of the issues related to children both during and after divorce. If you are concerned about maintaining contact with your grandchildren after a divorce or separation, please get in touch to discuss your options.

To find out more, speak to one of our child law solicitors now by calling 020 3797 4952 or use the enquiry form below to request a call back.

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