What Are Grandparents’ Rights When It Comes to Seeing Their Grandchildren?
With rising childcare costs and a two parent working family now being the norm, grandparents are playing an increasingly important role in the day to day lives of their grandchildren. Many working parents, me included, rely heavily on their parents help to care for younger children, with school pick-ups and holiday care.
A YouGov poll carried out by Age UK showed that 40% of the nation’s grandparents over the age of 50 have provided regular childcare for their grandchildren and the close bond that develops as a result is an additional bonus both for the children and grandparents alike.
When families separate grandparents often find that they’re forced to take (or presumed to take) a partisan position. Consequently, some discover that their role has morphed from providing an essential support network to being marginalised and denied contact with their grandchildren as a result of a dispute between the parents.
Grandparents don’t have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren and therefore any contact they have needs to be agreed with the parents. Although it might feel unnatural or disloyal to appear neutral in the event of a separation, maintaining an impartial position and keeping the lines of communication open with the other parent can be crucial if you want to retain an active involvement with the children. Mediation can help you discuss any difficult issues with family members and reach an agreement amicably.
If mediation is unsuccessful, you can ask the Court for permission to apply for a Court Order. The Family Court will make a decision based on what they consider to be in the children’s best interests. This can range from an order that your grandchildren live with you (for example in circumstances when their parents are unable to care for them) to an order for indirect contact (e.g. that you can send cards and letters).
The Court recognises that it will be important for children who have had a close relationship with their grandparents to be able to maintain this in the event of a family breakdown. However, the Court will also want reassurance that the children will be protected from adult disputes and therefore it’s important to avoid negativity about other family members who still play an important role in the children’s lives.
At Irwin Mitchell, our Complex Children Team of Excellence have significant expertise in dealing with issues involving Grandparental Contact and will be happy to answer any questions or worries you might have about the process. If you’d like to learn more, please visit out our page on services we can provide for grandparents or visit our family law page.