Grandparents often play an important part in their grandchildren’s live, including helping with childcare and providing emotional support and many other benefits. However, when a couple separates, grandparents can lose access to their grandchildren, meaning expert legal advice and support may be required to ensure grandparents’ rights are considered.
Our specialist family lawyers have more than 20 years of experience helping families with all of the issues related to divorce and separation, including grandparents’ rights. With exceptional expertise in non-confrontational dispute resolution, we can usually find a way to resolve these issues without the need for court action. This can help you achieve a solution faster and at lower expense, while keeping conflict to a minimum. This approach can be particularly beneficial for grandparents’ rights issues where your chances of achieving a positive outcome in court can be very difficult to predict.
Our grandparents’ rights solicitors offer a free 1-hour initial consultation so we can discuss your circumstances and what you hope to achieve. We will then talk you through your potential legal options in plain English so you can have complete confidence when deciding how to move forward.
What are a grandparent’s rights to their grandchildren?
Under normal circumstances, grandparents have no automatic legal right to contact with their grandchildren. However, it is often possible to agree contact with your grandchildren’s parents or to apply for a court order giving you access to your grandchildren where an agreement cannot be made.
Voluntarily agreeing access to your grandchildren
Wherever possible, we always recommend trying to make an agreement with your grandchildren’s parents for contact with your grandchildren. We can assist you in discussing these issues as well as offering our services as mediators where appropriate. Agreeing a solution normally allows you to resolve the situation faster and at lower cost, while, crucially, making it easier to maintain a positive relationship with your grandchildren’s parents.
The details of any arrangement you make will be up to your and the parents and could involve when you can visit your grandchildren, what other contact you can have with them, e.g. by phone or email, and any other provisions you wish to make.
Apply for a Contact Order for your grandchildren
As a grandparent, you do not automatically have the right to apply to a court for contact with your grandchildren. However, courts are increasingly recognising the important contribution grandparents can make to their grandchildren’s lives and may still be willing to grant you the right to access your grandchildren depending on the circumstances.
The first step is to apply to a family court for permission to apply for a Contact Order. If the court grants permission, you can then apply for a Contact Order, which will set out exactly what access to your grandchildren you are allowed.
In deciding whether to allow you to apply for a Contact Order and, if this permission is granted, what the details of that Contact Order should be, a court will look at various factors. This includes:
- The strength of your existing connection with your grandchildren (e.g. how much contact you previously had with them)
- The appropriateness of the type of access you are aiming for
- Whether there is any risk of harm to the children’s wellbeing from contact with you
If either of the children’s parents object to your application for a Contact Order, you will likely need to attend a court hearing where the relevant issues will be presented and a judge will make a decision whether to grant the Contact Order or not.
If you are granted a Contact Order for your grandchildren by a court, the children’s parents will be legally required to allow you the contact specified by the Order.
Non-confrontational dispute resolution for grandparents’ rights
When trying to work out issues related to grandparents’ rights, our experience tells us that it is usually in everyone’s best interests to do so voluntarily through non-confrontational dispute resolution methods such as family mediation and collaborative law.
Mediation for grandparents’ rights issues – Mediation can be a highly effective way to resolve a whole range of family disputes, including those around grandparents’ rights. One of our trained, neutral mediators will host a meeting between everyone involved, allowing all of the relevant issues to be discussed while working to keep conflict to a minimum.
This can allow any problems to be sorted out amicably and arrangements for access to and contact with your grandchildren to be agreed while helping you to preserve a positive relationship with both of their parents.
Collaborative law for grandparents’ rights issues – Collaborative law is an alternative approach to resolving the issues involved in divorce and separation, including those related to children. While the process is meant for parents, the issues of grandparents’ access to their grandchildren can be included in the process.
Collaborative law involves both parents meeting with the support of their respective lawyers to negotiate arrangements for moving forward after a divorce or separation. This can be helpful where there are more complicated issues, such as grandparents’ rights to take into account as it means each parent has the support of their own trained legal representative to advise them.