What Rights Do Grandparents Have To See Grandchildren When Parents Split Up?

Published: 12th March 2013

When couples with children end a relationship, one of the biggest issues they have to deal with is to work out the arrangements for children. Parents often struggle to agree on fundamental questions like where the children should live and how much contact each parent should have with the children.

However, one common casualty in the breakdown of a relationship between parents is the relationship of the children with their grandparents. Sometimes, one parent can try to prevent the other parent’s parents from having any contact with their grandchildren. If this happens then what rights do grandparents have?

Can grandparents apply to the Court for a Contact Order?

Only people with parental responsibility, for example, parents or those with a Residence Order in their favour can make an application for a contact order. However, grandparents can apply for permission from the court to make a court application in respect of their grandchildren. In deciding the case the Court will consider the following:

  • The applicant’s (Grandparents) connection with the child
  • The nature of the application
  • Is the application harmful to the child’s welfare?

If permission is granted, the grandparents can apply through the Court for a contact order in respect of the child or children concerned.

Assuming one or both parents raise objection to the contact application, it is likely that there will be a hearing when you will be able to put forward your case. If you have not already done so, it is important at this stage to obtain legal advice on grandparents rights as you will need to persuade the court that being part of your grandchildren’s lives is a significant benefit to them.

In deciding a case, the Court will consider what is in the interests of the children using the Welfare Checklist. It is only in extreme circumstances, for example physical or emotional abuse, where the Court will refuse contact with Grandparents.

What is a Contact Order and how is it enforced?

A contact order requires the person with whom the children live to allow the children to visit or stay with the person named in the order. The Order may include direct contact where the grandparent have face to face contact with the grandchildren or indirect contact, for example, telephone, letters, cards, birthday, Christmas gifts and emails.

A Contact Order can be enforced but with good legal advice at the outset which will ensure that the contact order you have is successful, there may be no need to enforce.

Thankfully, most people abide by contact orders but some will refuse and this can be enforced. The penalties for not abiding by a contact order are:

  • A fine
  • Community Service
  • Imprisonment (although a court is unlikely to wish to deprive the child of the primary carer)

Finding a good family law solicitor and taking good legal advice at the outset will ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to obtain a successful order.

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