What grandparents rights are there in the UK?
The very first thing you need to know when it comes to grandparents and children, is that grandparents have no automatic legal rights – to see their grandchildren, or in any other regard. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing grandparents can do if, for example, they want to see the grandchildren or perhaps want to have their grandchildren live with them. However even to make an application to the court in respect of their grandchildren, any grandparent will need to get the court’s permission to make the application first.
Grandparents and divorce
If you and your spouse are divorcing, it is a good idea to bear in mind the grandparents of your children when you are separating. Often, if one spouse moves to a new area with the children, the grandparents of the other spouse can lose out and don’t get to see them anymore. If you are getting divorced, it’s usually a good idea to listen to the children’s grandparents and let them see the children if they wish to – unless there are any major issues that you think should prevent this. If you are a grandparent worried that you will lose contact with your grandchildren following a divorce, speaking to their mother and father is the place to start.
Sometimes, it isn’t possible to work out an arrangement with the grandparents, often because the parents are no longer able to agree with each other. This is where family mediation can help; our family law team includes two jointly qualified family mediators/lawyers who can help you with mediation if you think it might benefit you and the grandparents of your children.
Grandparents and a court application
As mediation and voluntary arrangements don’t always work, grandparents can try to make use of the court system. Even though grandparents don’t have an automatic right to apply for a contact or other order in relation to the grandchildren, they can still take steps towards making an application if they are able to establish their connection with the children in question to the court. The first step before a formal court application [for say contact] can be made, is to get the court’s permission to make an application – unlike parents who can immediately apply for a child related application, grandparents have to get the permission of the court to do so first – and that’s not an automatic rubber stamp. If one parent is still reluctant to allow a grandparent access to the children, the court might decide to hold a hearing to decide what is in the best interests of the children. The court have the power to rule that the grandparents should be able to see their grandchildren. The starting position that the court will take is that it usually in a child’s interests to see their grandparents – but when considering whether to make an order, the court has a very clear legal duty to put the child’s interests first – over the interests of grandparents or parents.
If you are a grandparent and cannot come to a voluntary agreement with the parents of your grandchildren, it is a good idea to seek specialist legal advice. Our family and divorce team specialise in grandparents rights cases and can explain your options to you and will be able to help you handle what is likely to be a delicate situation, hopefully leading to a satisfactory outcome for everyone involved.
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