The question of grandparent’s rights to see their grandchildren when they are being denied the ability to spend time with them is a common one for family lawyers.
Typically, there tends to be two main reasons why grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren: –
- either their own child has, or is in the process of separating from their spouse/partner, and subsequently in turn lose contact with their own child/ren from that relationship, or;
- the grandparent/s may simply lose contact with their own child and thus, as a result, the grandchild/ren.
In both cases the parties need to be mindful that, even if a fall out has occurred, there are two families that collectively form the child/ren’s identity, and it is therefore important for the child/ren to have a meaningful relationship, not only with both parents, but also the extended family, where it is safe for them to do so.
Whatever the reason for the loss of contact, the relationship between children and their grandparents is completely unique and, presuming it is a healthy one, enriches the lives of both the children and the grandparents, very often in a way that no other relationship can. Therefore, it goes without saying that when this relationship is denied it can be a confusing and incredibly painful time for everyone.
So, what are grandparents rights to see grandchildren? Unfortunately, the answer is often simple; in most cases grandparents’ rights do not exist automatically, and the solution for most grandparents is to work towards reconciling with their own child (or their child’s former partner) to gain access to them.
For any grandparent trying to gain access to see their grandchild/ren, it is always important, where possible, to have an “ally in the other camp” and to try adopting a gentle approach, even if the situation they face causes anger or frustration. As progress towards re-establishing contact is far more likely to be successful if the grandparent/s can stay as neutral as possible.
If access cannot be achieved through the means outlined above, the only other option available to grandparents, without resorting to court proceedings, is mediation with a properly trained mediator, to see: –
- whether they can address the concerns of the parents that are preventing contact from taking place, and;
- to see whether agreement can be reached to re-establish it.
If mediation is successful, the agreed mediation terms can be drawn up into an order by a solicitor, setting out the grandparents rights. This order will then be submitted to the court for the approval of a judge. In this way, should any issues arise in the future, the grandparents rights can be far more easily enforced.
Sadly, mediation does not always work, either due to one or more of the parties being unwilling to engage in it, or the parties being unable to come to an agreement within the mediation process. In these circumstances, the ultimate recourse is to submit an application to the court, but it is important to note, that this is unlikely to be successful if neither of the child/ren’s parents support it. However, if one parent does support contact taking place between the grandparent/s and the child/ren then, rather than running the risk of issuing proceedings with no guarantee of success, it is often advisable to try and arrange to see the grandchild/ren when the supporting parent has them instead.
If an application does have to be made to the court to enforce the grandparents rights to see grandchildren, then this has to be done by completing a C100 form (or a C2 if there are already existing proceedings) for which the grandparent/s must tick the box in the C100 form to say that permission is required from the court for them to make the application. The court will then decide whether or not to progress the application on the basis of the child/ren’s welfare, which is the paramount consideration of the court.
However, there are circumstances when the court’s permission for an application made by grandparents is not required. This can include if they have been acting in the capacity of parent/s to the grandchild/ren, or if the grandchild/ren have been living with them for the last three out of five years, in which case such permission is likely to be irrelevant. Indeed if, as grandparents, you have been acting in the capacity of parents to the grandchild/ren concerned, then you may wish to apply to the court to have this formalised into an order in any event, to prevent any issues arising in the future.
At the end of the day, the most effective way of grandparents gaining access to their grandchild/ren will always be through amicable methods, so it is really important for grandparents to bear this in mind if their own child is going through separation, or if they are considering re-establishing contact with an estranged child who is the mother or father of the grandchildren.
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