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Grandparents' rights and family breakdown: What you need to know

Learn about grandparents' rights to see their grandchildren in this guide from our family law team.

In some situations, grandparents may find themselves separated from their grandchildren due to family disputes, divorce, or other circumstances.

Whilst grandparents often play a pivotal role in a child’s life, a grandparent has no automatic 'legal right' to see their grandchildren.

If you cannot reach an agreement with the parents of your grandchildren and are unable to negotiate a way forward, you may want to explore supported non-court-based dispute resolution options, such as mediation, before considering possible litigation through the court.

Can grandparents apply for access to grandchildren?

You might be able to ask the court to assist in making arrangements for you to spend time with your grandchildren by applying for a Child Arrangements Order. Usually, you will need the permission of the court, which is also called 'leave of the court', to make an application and if successful the court would then consider the main application.

There are certain circumstances where a grandparent does not need the court's permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order. These include where the grandparent already has a 'lives with order' or a 'residence order' in respect of a child, or for example, if the child has been living with a grandparent for more than three years.

What will the court consider when deciding whether to grant leave for a grandparent to make an application?

This will depend on a number of factors including the nature of the application, the grandparent’s connection to the child and, and whether there is a risk to the child that granting the application would disrupt his or her life to the extent that he or she would be harmed by it.

If permission is granted for a grandparent to make an application, what will the court then consider before making any order?

The judge will apply the Children Act 1989 welfare checklist to make their decision and they will take into account matters such as the age of the child, their wishes and feelings and any harm the child may be at risk of suffering. The paramount consideration will always be the child's welfare.

Can grandparents obtain parental responsibility for grandchildren?

Grandparents do not have automatic parental responsibility in respect of their grandchildren. Assuming the child’s parents are still living, someone other than a parent can be granted parental responsibility for a child by applying to court for a ‘lives with’ Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. It is always important that specialist legal advice is taken before any application is made.

Grandparents do have options available to them, whether that be through mediation in the first instance or an application to court. It is important for grandparents facing such situations to seek professional legal advice to navigate what can be a complex legal landscape.

For more information on grandparents' rights to see their grandchildren, contact our child law solicitors.

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