What Rights do Grandparents Have to See Grandchildren After Parents’ Divorce? (UK)
Seeing your children go through a divorce is understandably a challenging time, and when they have children of their own, the process can become even more difficult, so you might be wondering ‘do grandparents have rights?’.
Grandparents often play an invaluable role in the lives of grandchildren, so for their relationship to break down following a divorce would be heartbreaking for everyone involved.
No child should be kept apart from a loving family member, especially during their parents’ separation, when they will need more love and reassurance than ever before.
So, do grandparents have any rights to see their grandchildren after the children’s parents finalise their divorce? Read on to find out more.
Are you looking to understand more about grandparents rights to see grandchildren? Get our tailored advice today.
Please note: We are a solicitor firm with offices in Manchester and Blackburn, United Kingdom, and can only assist in family law matters to those living in England and Wales.
How does Current Family Law Protect grandparents' rights to see grandchildren?
Regrettably, grandparents are not recognised as having parental responsibility, which means they don’t have any legal right to stay in contact with their grandchildren in the event of divorce.
Under existing UK law, grandparents are not automatically entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) either.
Grandparents who want to obtain rights to see their grandchildren must first obtain permission to apply for a CAO by the court. The court will base the decision on matters such as your relationship with your grandchild and how your application could affect their daily lives.
Although it may seem hostile and stringent, the court requires that you get permission to apply first in order to protect the grandchildren from unnecessary interference.
We believe that in many cases it is important to help grandparents get legal rights to see their grandchildren so as to keep family relationships as stable as possible, ensuring that the little ones, and their grandparents don’t miss out.
For expert advice get in touch with our family law solicitors today.
If one or both of the child’s parents object to your CAO application, you may all have to attend a hearing. This is understandably a distressing situation to be in and we recommend that at this stage you should seek legal advice, if you haven’t already.
Court proceedings are costly and not something we believe are often not appropriate for delicate family matters. Our family solicitors are always determined to keep every case out of court, unless it becomes the absolute last resort.
We are here to help you avoid court and reach amicable solutions between family members. Get our expert advice tailored to your situation.
MP’s Seek Amendment of the Children Act
Last year, a proposal was brought forward by dozens of MPs to give grandparents greater rights to see their grandchildren, regardless of the children’s family arrangements.
MPs suggested that the Children Act is updated to include a child’s right to maintain a close relationship with all members of their extended family.
When discussing the need for the proposal, Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston said “when access to grandchildren is blocked, some grandparents call it a kind of living bereavement”.
He went on to add that he has heard many stories of loving grandparents being visited by the police or accused of harassment for simply posting birthday cards and Christmas presents to their grandchildren, because by law they have no rights to see them.
There is ongoing cross-party support for the change in the law, which will be considered by the Ministry of Justice.
Grandparents should consider attending mediation sessions with the rest of their family in order to reach a mutual agreement on visitation rights, so they can make arrangements to see their grandchildren.
If you choose to do this, family mediators will listen to the opinions of both you and your children and help you work through the issues raised together, ultimately finding a solution that best suits everyone.
Mediation is a professional but personal method of dispute resolution and leads to cases being resolved in a much faster and more civil manner than if they were to go through the courts.
We have close ties with family mediators across the country. Would you like our advice on mediation?
EU Rules that Grandparents Have Rights to See Grandchildren
Just last year the European Court of Justice ruled that divorced parents cannot legally deny grandparents’ access to their children, stating that “the notion of rights of access refers to other persons with whom it is important for the child to maintain a personal relationship”.
This finding came after a case involving a Bulgarian woman, Neli Valcheva, who was fighting to maintain contact with her young grandson who had moved to Greece with his father, who had recently divorces from his mother.
Mrs Valcheva successfully had her rights enforced by the Bulgarian Supreme Court, with the advocate general commenting that “contact between grandparents and their grandchildren, in particular in an ever-changing society, remains an essential source of stability for children”.
Grandparents Custody Rights
Can Grandparents Get Custody of their Grandchildren?
It is possible for grandparents to be awarded custody of grandchildren. You might choose to seek this if you believe that they would be better off overall if they were living permanently with you.
However, the court must give you, the grandparent, permission to apply for custody, in the same way you must apply to be able to see your grandchildren. If permission is granted, you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order. There will need to be a valid reason why you are applying for custody, for example if the children’s parent/s have ill-health which makes them unsuitable to look after the children themselves.
Can I See My Grandchildren if My Child Doesn't Have Access to Them?
You can see your grandchildren if your child doesn’t have access to them, but it can be difficult. Although it’s rare that a parent have access to their child taken away, it does happen.
However, even if your child does not have any access to your grandchildren, you can apply for your own access on an individual basis. Your access may be limited and monitored, but it will be access nonetheless.
For further information get in touch with our family law solicitors, who can give you advice tailored to your unique family situation.
Do You Need Help with your Family Law Matters?
It’s an unfortunate fact that during a family separation grandparents often feel as though their contributions are overlooked. We understand how upsetting and distressing this can be for you and your grandchildren, and we know that it could damage your relationship beyond repair.
Our expert family team have experience in dealing with all areas of child and family law and have successfully helped many families reach amicable decisions through mediation, and court proceedings if necessary.
We understand that cases involving children can be sensitive, so our team will always show the utmost respect and compassion for you and your family.
Ultimately, we understand that the fact that grandparents don’t have rights to see their grandchildren can cause emotional damage to everyone involved, however we can provide an understanding and holistic approach to get you and your family the best result possible.
Call our family law department today for further information on how we can help you.
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