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.
Common questions about grandparents’ rights
Can parents stop grandparents seeing their grandchildren?
Unless there is a Contact Order from a court in place that establishes your rights to see your grandchildren, their parents can simply refuse to allow you access if they wish. You would then need to negotiate with the parents or apply for a Court Order to establish your rights to access your grandchildren.
If you have a Contact Order from a court that gives you the right to contact with your grandchildren, their parents will be breaking the law if they attempt to prevent you having the access set out in the court order.
Can grandparents get custody of their grandchildren?
If you are worried about the wellbeing of your grandchildren, whether due to concerns about their parents’ ability to care for them or because they have been placed into care, you may be able to get custody. There are various options you can look at, including:
Residence Orders – This is a court order that can be used to give you parental responsibility for a grandchild and establish that they will live with you for as long as the Residence Order is in effect.
Special Guardianship Orders – This is a court order that can be used to appoint you as your grandchildren’s Special Guardian, allowing them to live with you and giving you the right to make day-to-day decisions for your grandchildren. An advantage of using a Special Guardianship Order is that it does not remove Parental Responsibility from the children’s parents, meaning they maintain a legal link with their children, but you are only required to consult the parents about their wishes under exceptional circumstances.
Adoption – Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to adopt your grandchildren. This will not only give you Parental Responsibility, but also remove it from their parents where this is an issue. This can be the best option if one or both of your grandchildren’s parents have passed away or are considered unfit parents e.g. due to substance abuse issues.
Why choose Crisp & Co for grandparents’ rights advice?
Crisp & Co’s family lawyers are experts in all areas of family law, including grandparents’ rights, with more than two decades of experience helping families all over London and South East England to resolve this issues. We understand that need to balance your rights with the wellbeing of your grandchildren, so will take a sensitive but practical approach to ensure everyone’s best interests are taken into account.
Thanks to our exceptional expertise in non-confrontational dispute resolution, including family mediation and collaborative law, we can usually help resolve family law issues without the need for court action. This helps to minimise conflict and can allow you to maintain a better relationship with everyone involved, while also generally being faster and less expensive that initiating court proceedings.
Our team includes several members of Resolution, a group of family lawyers committed to taking the conflict out of resolving family law disputes. This membership means that we have agreed to work according to a code of practice designed to keep family dispute resolution non-confrontational and that our solicitors have access to additional training and resources so they can offer a better service to you.
Crisp & Co is Lexcel accredited by the Law Society’s Lexcel in recognition of the high standards of our practice management and client care. We have also achieved Law Society accreditation in Family Law Advanced for our particular expertise in this area.
Book a free consultation to discuss your grandparents’ rights in London & South East England
Get in touch with our grandparents’ rights solicitors in London and across the South East to book your free 1-hour consultation now by calling 020 3281 7887 or contacting your local Crisp & Co office.