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 indirect contact such as sending cards and presents, telephone calls or direct contact where you get to see the children. To do this you need to complete a form C2, it is a relatively simple form.

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, again 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.