Grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren. This can often come as a surprise to grandparents, who can play a pivotal role in caring for and supporting their grandchildren.
In a climate of escalating childcare costs and in light of the challenges faced by many parents trying to balance work and family life, grandparents can provide essential support and structure to children during the important formative years. Grandparents often delight in looking after their grandchildren and develop strong bonds that last a lifetime. It is therefore devastating when grandparents are unexpectedly prevented from spending time with their grandchildren.
Problems most commonly arise as a result of divorce or separation in families and the ramifications of this for parents and grandparents in reconciling childcare arrangements. Grandparents are sometimes left with no alternative but to attempt to preserve a relationship with their grandchildren through the contact times afforded to a non-resident parent. This arrangement may not offer grandparents the contact they wish with their grandchildren.
What options are available to grandparents who have been refused access to their grandchildren? Our family law solicitors provide sensitive and practical legal advice bespoke to your family’s circumstances. We have years of experience assisting families to reach amicable solutions; however, we understand that some situations require the robust decision making provided by the courts. We will represent your best interests and provide prompt and practical advice on the best options available to you, both in and out of court.
Court action should be a last resort option for grandparents seeking access and contact with grandchildren. If discussions within the family have failed to reconcile disagreements, mediation is often the best course for the resolution of family matters where both parties are emotionally invested in a disagreement and its eventual outcome.
Mediation allows families to decide matters among themselves and on terms specific to their unique circumstances, with the assistance of a mediator to structure and broker challenging subjects. There will be no final agreement unless both parties agree; this allows both parties to walk away from mediation with a satisfactory result and, most importantly, with crucial relationships intact and potentially improved as a result of the mediation process. Mediation also eliminates the possibility that a court will order something that fails to satisfactorily address your concerns or damages an already fractured and fragile relationship with the other party to the disagreement.
Our family lawyers can mediate on your behalf and seek to establish a reciprocal agreement that satisfies all parties involved. Our solicitors understand the sensitivity of these matters and will act both sympathetically and purposefully on your behalf.
If mediation fails, seeking a court order can be the best option in cases where a grandparent wishes to have contact with a grandchild and considers this to be in the child’s best interests. A family law solicitor here at Miller Samuel Hill Brown can seek a court order for parental responsibilities and rights on your behalf. If the order is granted, a Contact Order can be made to formalise access rights to your grandchildren. In determining an application, the court will consider the applicant’s relationship with the child and, most importantly, what is in the best interests of the child. Family courts frequently recognise the instrumental role that grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives and it is rare that the court will refuse a grandparent access to grandchildren unless there is strong evidence against an application.
If one, or both parents raise objections against the granting of an application for parental rights and responsibilities, you will likely be required to attend a court hearing in which evidence will be presented in support of each parties’ respective positions. A family lawyer at Miller Samuel Hill Brown will prepare and lead evidence in support of your application. We will work closely with you to understand the relationship you have with your grandchildren and communicate this during the hearing. The court will always consider the child’s circumstances and will only make an order where it is evidenced to be in the best interests of the child. This can sometimes be a difficult test to satisfy and every case will have unique factors to be examined. The court will look to establish the extent of the existing relationship and weigh up whether the granting of contact with the child will have a detrimental bearing on wider family relationships.
We have successfully supported many grandparents in reaching an amicable resolution to family disagreements. Our team of family law solicitors can provide essential legal advice during challenging family circumstances and can guide you through the legal process of obtaining access and rights of contact with grandchildren.