Resolve Family Mediation

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Grandparents Rights

When families separate, grandparents can sometimes find themselves excluded or more limited in seeing their grandchildren. In circumstances where grandparents have an established relationship with their grandchildren there is a legal route available to them to address this issue.​

Arrangements for grandparents to see their grandchildren should initially be sought through agreement with the parents or carers of the child. In the absence of being able to reach agreement directly then attending Family Mediation would be the next step for grandparents to take.

However, where arrangements cannot be agreed at Family Mediation then grandparents can make an application to the family court. This is a two staged process, which starts with grandparents having to ask the family court for permission to apply for a child arrangements order. If successful in obtaining permission then the issue of how, when and how often visits should take place is considered by the family court. A child arrangements order is then issued by the family court.

Child arrangements orders were introduced through the Children and Families Act 2014 (replacing contact and residence orders) and decide where a child lives or the contact they have with any person (or both); when determining whether to make, vary, or discharge such an order, a court’s “paramount consideration” is the welfare of the child.

What is taken into account when grandparent's when permission is sought?

An application for leave to commence proceedings will be considered by the Court, taking into consideration the applicant’s connection with the child, the nature of the application, and whether the child may suffer harm by the application being brought.

If the Court deems that it is appropriate for leave to be granted, the Applicant is then entitled to bring their application for a Child Arrangements Order. The views of the parents, or others holding parental responsibility, will be sought in respect of contact. In some cases, it may also be appropriate for the child’s views to be heard regarding whether they would like contact to go ahead. In any application for a Court Order, brought by a parent, grandparent or otherwise, the child’s welfare will be the paramount consideration for the Court in reaching a decision.

Case law has demonstrated that there is no presumption that visits with a grandparent will be in the child’s best interests. It is therefore a matter for the Applicant grandparent to demonstrate to the Court that in the particular circumstances of their case, that it is in the best interests of their grandchild that contact should occur.

Courts may take the view that a grandparent’s application should be secondary to parental visits. Therefore, it is important for a grandparent to demonstrate why they should have ‘stand-alone’ visits with the child. The Court may be hesitant to over-burden the child with frequent visits, particularly if an Order is in place for them to see one or other of their parents. If visits are to take place, it may occur either directly, through face-to-face visits, or indirectly, via letters, cards or telephone calls.

Unfortunately grandparents’ applications for Child Arrangements Orders are not always straightforward, given that there is effectively a ‘leave’ hurdle to jump, before being granted permission to being the substantive application before the Court. It is therefore sensible for prospective Applicants to obtain sound advice prior to making any such application to the Court.

Attending Family Mediation is necessary before an application to court can can be made. Once Mediation does commence it may be possible to reach an amicable agreement without the need to make an application to court. An agreement will then be prepared by the family mediator.

Contact us for more information.