Difficult family dynamics: The rights you have to contact your grandchildren

23rd April 2024

Family dynamics can be complex when disputes occur due to separation or divorce, particularly if children are involved.

That is why relying on the help of members of the wider family, such as grandparents, can be important.

Often, grandparents and their grandchildren already have a special bond, but a breakdown in family dynamics may make contact between them more difficult.

If needed, it is important to be aware of the contact rights available to grandparents via the Family Court.

The rights you have as a grandparent

English law states that grandparents do not have direct legal rights over their grandchildren, meaning contact cannot be demanded by the grandparent nor can decisions be made on the child’s behalf (about their contact with grandparents) in the absence of a court order.

If an amicable resolution cannot be reached with the parents, grandparents can apply for permission to see their grandchildren.

This could include circumstances where neither parent can care for their child. In particular, if both the parents are unwell or unavailable, for example due to serving a prison sentence or upon their death.

In these examples, grandparents can apply for guardianship, allowing them to make key decisions on behalf of their grandchildren.

How do I obtain contact rights or guardianship?

If the situation allows, attempting to resolve the issue outside of the courts through mediation is the first step to seeking the contact rights of your grandchildren.

Mediation services are a legal requirement, before further action can be considered.

By choosing mediation, you may open the possibility of reconciliation and repairing damaged family relationships before the court becomes fully involved.

Often, this leads to families resolving their differences and organising their own amicable arrangements – an overall positive for all involved.

If you are unable to reach an agreement, your next step may be to apply to the court for an order.

Child Arrangements Orders direct how frequently and under what circumstances a child should spend time with someone.

This can give you rights to spend time with your grandchild.

Due to the absence of grandparents’ rights in UK law, you must seek permission from the court before applying for a court order.

The court may be more likely to grant permission to grandparents who play a significant role and have a close-knit relationship with their grandchildren.

Breaking down the overall process

When it comes to family matters, every situation is unique.

However, the recommended steps for maintaining or establishing contact with your grandchildren remain the same:

  1. Mediation
  2. Seeking permission from the court
  3. Application for a court order
  4. First hearing
  5. Fact-finding hearing
  6. Further hearings
  7. Decision

The process can be lengthy, but this is due to the court’s understanding what is in the best interests of the child.

The legal challenges

The process of gaining contact rights with your grandchildren can be complex, as well as emotionally and financially draining.

Seeking advice from our legal experts early in the process allows you to better understand your options and take the best course of action.

An experienced family law solicitor will help you navigate the complex legal frameworks and support you through potentially lengthy court proceedings guiding you towards a resolution that is in the best interests of your grandchildren.

Please speak to our family law experts for further information and advice.

We have offices in Cannock, Sutton Coldfield, Dudley and Lichfield.