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Grandparent’s rights


The most common question we are asked by a Grandparent is do they have a right to spend time with their grandchildren.  Unfortunately the answer is no. 

A Grandparent can ask to spend time with their grandchildren, but what should you do if the answer is no?  Often this problem arises in the context of a relationship breakdown.  For example the grandchildren might be living with your former daughter-in-law and she says no because of the problems in her relationship with her husband – your son.

It may possible to see your grandchildren whilst they are spending time with your child – their parent.  Often children spend time with their wider family when they are spending time with their parents.

But what if you have always collected your grandchildren from school once a week and given them tea as their parents were at work, but this has now stopped.  Or the grandchildren are being stopped from seeing you because their parent (your child) might be to blame for the breakdown of the parental relationship.

When you are not able to see your grandchildren at all, and all other options have failed, Grandparents can make an application to the court to see their grandchildren. 

The court must first give permission to the Grandparents to make the application.  A Grandparent does not have an automatic right to make the application.  The courts do recognise the important role of wider family members in children’s lives and therefore usually do grant permission for the application to be pursued.  However if one of the parents objects to the application, the court will have to determine whether it should proceed, the reasons for the application, the previous relationship between the grandchild and the grandparent and the impact on the child of allowing the application to proceed.

If permission is granted, and the application proceeds, ultimately the court is only concerned with the welfare of the child and making an order that is in the child’s best interests.

It is obviously better for parties to agree arrangements rather than become involved in court proceedings.  No matter how difficult it may be, it is best for the Grandparents to remain neutral in any relationship breakdown, to offer to continue collecting the children once a week from school.  However it is important that you respect the wishes of the parents, and it may be that you need to make it clear that the time you spend with the grandchildren will simply be that, and no one else is around.  If, for example, Mum has made it clear that she is happy for you to see the grandchildren, but Dad is not to attend, then that wish needs to be respected.  Even if it means a tough conversation with your child.  By remaining neutral you are ideally placed to help your grandchildren through this difficult time for them.

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