The legal recognition of a Grandparent, within Child Proceedings, has not sadly altered to reflect the change in society. More and more parents are relying on Grandparents for childcare and they have a very active role in the child’s up-bringing.
There are also now greater expectations on mothers to return to work relatively swiftly after giving birth whilst the costs of childcare have increased placing burdens on parents, which only care from Grandparents can alleviate.
However, what happens when Grandparents are restricted for whatever reason from seeing their grandchildren and they wish legally to seek a right to see or have some form of contact with the grandchild ? I am talking about where the parents pass away, one parent passes away or they separate and restrict the grandparent’s access to the children or perhaps there has been a breakdown between the family.
So what rights would you have in these circumstances? In short, unless your grandchild has lived with you for three years or more; or you have a ‘residence order’; or the parties (usually the parents) with Parental Responsibility agree, then you will be subject to the same restrictions for obtaining permission of the courts to assert your rights as any non-related party. This means that you need an order from the court giving you permission to even apply to establish such rights
In summary , if your children are not around or you have a disagreement, or the grandchildren are not living with you the court’s will treat you almost like a stranger in considering your right to apply for an order to see the children or have them reside with you.
The statute that governs this area is the Children Act 1989. Section 10 (9) sets out the test for obtaining leave from the Court. The criteria includes: the nature of the application (so what you are actually looking for and to what extent), any risk that there might be of the application disrupting the child’s life (to an extent that the child would be harmed by any such order).
The Grandparents relationship will be a connection recognised by the Court but there is no absolute right for a Grandparent to apply under the Children Act. This may, in years to come and in light of social changes, be altered so that leave of the Court will not be required. Until such time as the current statutory position is changed, mediation (informal dispute resolution media) may offer an alternative route for organising Contact between the parties.
Family law practitioners recognise the need for potential changes in this field and can assist in organising and setting the foundations for mediation between grandparents and those with Parental Responsibility.
For more information contact us…
0207 426 0382