Do grandparents have a right to contact with their grandchildren?

When a couple makes the decision to divorce, the breakdown of the relationship can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, grandparents of any children of the relationship can suffer and even be prevented from seeing their grandchildren as often as they would like. However, there are certain actions grandparents can take to secure their relationship with their grandchildren and in this article, I will look at some of the solutions to this very sensitive legal problem.

Do grandparents have any legal rights?

It is a sad fact that under UK law, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren (unless they have parental responsibility). However, the family courts recognise the crucial role grandparents often play in a child’s life and as a result, it is very rare a court would refuse a grandparent access to their grandchild unless there was clear evidence of abuse or violence.

How can I convince parents to let me see my grandchild?

In the first instance, you should try to come to an agreement outside the courtroom – this gives you the best chance of maintaining a positive relationship with the child’s parents or any other party involved. Coming to an agreement outside of a courtroom can be challenging, so you may benefit from the assistance of a mediator. Before you can take court action, you must demonstrate to the court that you have attempted to resolve the situation using mediation. The mediator will guide you through the negotiation process allowing everyone to put their points forward and provide practical support to help keep your discussions on track.

If you are not successful in reaching an agreement through mediation, or where contact has broken down completely, you will need to make an application to the court.

Applying to the court for a Contact Order

Making an application to the court is typically a two-step process.

Only people with parental responsibility for a child may apply directly to the court for a Contact Order. As a result, grandparents usually must first apply for permission to make an application.  If the court grants you leave, you can apply for a Contact Order which will provide you with a legal basis for contact with your grandchildren. Where the parents of the child raise objections about contact, you may have to attend a full hearing.  During the hearing, you must convince the court that you have an ongoing and meaningful connection with your grandchild that benefits them.

Any applying Grandparents need to bear in mind that the court will balance the needs of the child to spend time with both their parents first; often the time grandparents get with their grandchildren is arranged as an extension of, or in conjunction with, the time that a child spends with their mother or father (the adult child of the applying grandparents). It is often a delicate balancing act to achieve what is in the best interests of the child.

To discuss this, or any other related matter with a member of the Family Law Team here at Hart Brown, please call us, email info@hartbrown.co.uk or start a live chat today.

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Vanessa McMurtrie

Partner, Family

Vanessa trained and then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Hart Brown working in the Cobham office's family department for a decade. She then...

Partner, Family

Vanessa McMurtrie

Vanessa trained and then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Hart Brown working in the Cobham office's family department for a decade. She then worked for us on a part time consultancy basis while devoting more time to her family. During this period she was instrumental in implementing Hart Brown’s family department’s case management system and later, the quality system that led to the firm’s ISO 9001 accreditation.

In 2005 Vanessa returned to client work and joined Mackrell Turner Garrett where she stayed for ten years, before re-joining Hart Brown in 2015. Vanessa knows Woking and the surrounding area well and enhances the work covered at our Woking office as part of the family team.

Vanessa has been a Resolution member since 1991, committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive way. She has served on the Surrey Resolution committee since 2008. She is a Resolution accredited collaboratively trained lawyer and welcomes the opportunity to help separating couples adopt this process as an alternative to the more traditional options available.

Over the years, Vanessa has gained a wealth of experience in dealing with the legal aspects of personal relationships, not just those coming to an end, but new relationships, too, where a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement is required. She prides herself on being approachable and understanding as she helps her clients go through the legal process.