Grandparents’ rights

When we at Family Law Decisions talk about grandparents rights we are in fact talking about children’s rights to have a meaningful relationship with their grandparents.

Children who know that their grandparents love them and want to remain in touch have increased self-esteem and will have an understanding of their family and their origins. Time with grandparents for a child can provide a sense of stability, continuity and belonging which is important to a child’s welfare. Many time grandparents will be someone children can speak to in confidence and they can provide a valuable practical and emotional resource for children and their parents.

Normally children spend time with their grandparents as arranged with the children’s parents. Sometimes because of the parents separation or other issues, children’s contact with their grandparents can stop and what was a hugely valuable experience for the children whether regularly or infrequently is not available to them.

Generally if a parent is already in court proceedings trying to maintain or re-establish their relationship with their children then it is often better that his or her parents (grandparents of the children) do not get involved as if and when the parent is successful then the grandparents relationship with the children will re-commence.

There are times when grandparents may want to make their own application to have their contact arrangements with their grandchildren maintained or re-established because it will benefit those grandchildren. If the parents will not assist and they should be the first people contacted then there may be no alternative but to look at court proceedings.

As a grandparent you have to get permission from the court to make an application for contact which could be direct contact where you get to spend some time with the children or indirect contact such as sending cards and presents, telephone calls or a combination of these.

You should complete a Form C100 to apply for a Child Arrangements Order. As a grandparent you will require to seek permission from the court, the person seeking permission must file:

  1. a written request for permission, which is contained in the revised Form C100, setting out the reasons for the application and also the application for which permission is sought
  2. a copy of any written evidence in support
  3. a draft of the order sought must be attached to the application notice
  4. Form C1A, Form C4 and Form C8 where applicable
  5. [FPR 2010, SI 2010/2955, 18.7]

Of course going to court is the last thing that grandparents want to do usually but if the situation is not improving and matters look bleak for the grandchildren’s relationship with their grandparents it may be the only viable option available.

Sometimes grandparents want to be joined to existing proceedings that may already involve their own children (parents of the grandchildren). This is where you have to ask the court for leave to be joined as a party (permission to take part in proceedings) and apply for a contact order, this is a Form C2.

There are other situations which may occur such as the grandchildren being in the local authority’s care and the first people you should speak to are the social workers involved to try and make arrangements. If this is not possible then you will have to apply to the courts for permission to apply for a contact order.

If the grandchildren have lived with the grandparents for three years then the grandparents can apply for residence of the children directly or if less time then they have to ask permission to make an application for residence (sets out where the children live).

There are also orders such as special guardianship which are a more legally secure placement of the child than residence orders. Grandparents can apply for a special guardianship order if certain criteria are met. If the local authority are considering applying for a care order and having the child adopted then grandparents can offer to be foster carers, or have a residence order or a special guardianship order depending on the circumstances and there is also the possibility of adopting the grandchildren.

Form CB1 and Form CB7 also provide information about the court process.