Contact Rights of Grandparents

Posted 4th April 2024

Discover how grandparents in England and Wales can maintain connections with their grandchildren after family separations through legal avenues like mediation and court permissions, emphasising the importance of child welfare for preserving essential family bonds.

There is a special bond between a grandparent and a grandchild, one that can sometimes be affected when the relationship between the grandchild’s parents breaks down.

A difficult consequence of a family breakup can be grandparents losing contact with their grandchild, either due to one parent losing contact or a direct dispute between the grandparents and the parents.

Under the law in England and Wales, grandparents do not have automatic rights to be in the lives of their grandchildren, regardless of how close the relationship may have been. However, it can be extremely important to a child to know and maintain links with their extended maternal or paternal family. Grandparents who find themselves being denied access to their grandchild do have options.

If after sufficient attempts have been made to reach an agreement with the child’s parent, contact is still being denied, a grandparent can seek the help of a third party, such as a family mediator. Mediation is a useful step as it allows the parties to discuss their issues and concerns freely and openly and often enables the parties to move forward in an amicable manner.

The court will also expect the parties to attempt mediation before making any application. Sadly though, conflicts are not always easily resolved, and a parent can continue to deny access to the grandchild leaving a grandparent with no option but to seek an order for contact from the court.

The courts recognise the important and invaluable role that grandparents can play in the lives of grandchildren, but grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for contact with their grandchildren.

Unlike those who have parental responsibility, such as step-parents or guardians, a grandparent must first obtain the court’s permission to apply for a contact order in relation to their grandchild. The court’s paramount consideration is always the welfare of the child, and the court will weigh up the grandparent’s connection and role in the child’s life against any potential risk of disruption and harm the proposed application might be cause to the child’s wellbeing.

Should the court grant the grandparent/s permission to apply, they can proceed with making an application for a Child Arrangements Order. The court process can be a lengthy process, with the court potentially seeking the input of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to assist them with making a final decision. The court have the power to order ‘live with’ orders, determine how much time a grandchild can spend with their grandparent/s, and also the type of contact that can occur.

If you are a grandparent who has been denied access to your grandchild, the prevention of contact can undoubtedly cause emotional distress to you and the grandchild. At Heald Solicitors we realise the importance grandparents can have in the lives of their grandchildren and are able to guide your through the process in a supportive and effective manner.

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The above information is for general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. Heald Solicitors disclaims and excludes any liability in respect of the contents of this article or for action taken based on this information. If you need legal advice, please contact a solicitor.