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Do grandparents have a right to contact with their grandchildren?

View profile for Hannah Stanford
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When a couple makes the decision to separate, the breakdown of the relationship can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, grandparents of any children of the relationship can suffer and even be prevented from seeing their grandchildren as often as they would like. However, there are certain actions grandparents can take. In this article, we look at some of the solutions to a very sensitive legal problem.

Do grandparents have any legal rights?

It is a sad fact that under UK law, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren (unless they have parental responsibility). However, the family courts recognise the critical role that grandparents play in a child’s life and as a result, it is very rare a court would refuse a grandparent access to their grandchild unless there was clear evidence of abuse or violence.

How can I see my grandchild?

In the first instance, you should try to come to an agreement outside of the courtroom. This gives you the best chance of maintaining a positive relationship with the child’s parents or any other party involved. Coming to an agreement outside of a courtroom can be challenging, so you may benefit from the assistance of a mediator. Before you can take court action, you must demonstrate to the court that you have attempted to resolve the situation using mediation. The mediator will guide you through the process allowing everyone to put their points forward and provide practical support to help keep your discussions on track.

If you are not successful in reaching an agreement through mediation, or where contact has broken down completely, you will need to make an application to the court.

Applying to the court for a Contact Order

Making an application to the court is typically a two-step process.

Only people with parental responsibility for a child may apply directly to the court for a Contact Order. As a result, in most cases, grandparents will first have to apply for permission to make an application.  If the court gives its permission, a Contact Order may be applied for, which will provide you with a legal basis for contact with your grandchildren. Where the parents of the child raise objections about contact, you may have to attend a full hearing. During the hearing, the court must be satisfied that you have an ongoing and meaningful connection with your grandchild that benefits them.

Contact our experts for further advice