What Are Grandparents Rights?
We are frequently asked what are grandparents rights when they have been denied access to their grandchildren. The sad truth is that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren. However, family courts do recognise the invaluable role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildrens lives and it is very rare that the court would refuse a grandparent access to grandchildren unless there is evidence of abuse or violence.
Can Grandparents Apply To The Courts For Access to Grandchildren?
Only people with parental responsibility, for example parents, step-parents or guardians can make an application for a Contact Order. Whilst grandparents rights are limited they can, however, apply for permission (leave) to apply for a Contact Order and the courts will consider the following:
- The applicant’s connection with the child.
- The nature of the application for contact.
- Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way.
If you are successful, you can apply for a Contact Order through the court to gain access to your grandchildren. If one, or both parents raise objections you are likely to have to attend a full hearing in which both parties can put forward their evidence. It is essential that you receive good legal advice at this stage because you will need to persuade the court that you have a meaningful and on-going relationship with your grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.
The court will always consider all the child’s circumstances and must only make an order where they consider it better for the child than making no order at all. For example, they might have to weigh up whether your continuing contact with the child might have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships, again it is only in extreme circumstance that a court will refuse access to grandchildren. We have successfully helped many grandparents resolve disputes amicably and gain access to granchildren.
What Is A Contact Order?
A Contact Order will stipulate the arrangements agreed upon including direct forms of communication such as face-to-face visiting rights; and in-direct forms such as letters, video, text, email and telephone calls etc.
The order requires that the person with whom the child lives allows the child to stay or visit with the person named in the order, or for that person and the child to otherwise have contact with each other.
Can A Contact Order Be Enforced?
A Contact Order can be enforced, but we would advise you to take good legal advice at the outset to ensure that the Contact Order you have is successful, so there is no need to enforce.
Thankfully the majority of people obey Contact Orders, but some will refuse and although a Contact Order can be enforced, the courts are often reluctant to do so since the penalty would either be a fine (or rarely imprisonment), and the court’s are unwilling to deprive a child from his / her primary carer.
Taking good legal advice early on will ensure that you are taking all the steps you can to move your case forward.
There are a number of orders available including Indirect contact (through letters, gifts, phone calls, e-mail, texts etc), direct contact (with your grandchild meeting or staying with you), and supervised contact (if there are concerns about a child’s safety).
Ways To Stay In Touch With Your Grandchildren
Whilst it is ideal to have face-to-face contact with your grandchildren, there are occasions where this is not possible.
In this case, the court may grant ‘Indirect Contact’ where you can write to your grandchildren, send Christmas and birthday cards together with small presents.
In addition to birthdays, it can be beneficial to choose specific dates to write to your grandchildren. Depending on the terms of your order, you could write on the first day of each month or on the date of your grandchild’s birthday on a monthly basis. Children enjoy routine and will help them anticipate and enjoy your communications.