Do Grandparents have a “right” to contact on family breakdown?

News - 06/10/2016

Did you know it was National Grandparents’ Day last Sunday? The celebration was launched by Age UK back in 1990 but it seems that it passed most people by.

At the Wimbledon office of Morrisons, we are proud to support Age UK (Merton) as our chosen charity for 2016 in recognition of the fantastic work that they do with the older residents of the borough, many of whom are grandparents.

Much has been made of the increased involvement of grandparents in a world where it is common for both parents to go out to work but less consideration has been given to what happens to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren in the event of a family breakdown.

Maintaining a close relationship with a grandparent can often provide stability for a child struggling to deal with their parents’ separation and their new living arrangements but sadly sometimes the wider family can become caught up in the hostilities of a difficult separation and relationships with the children may suffer as a result.

As with all issues relating to children, the paramount consideration is the “best interests of the child” but there is no presumption or automatic “right” for a child to see his/ her grandparent or for a grandparent to see their grandchild.

The law considers each and every case on its own facts to assess whether the best interests of the child in question would indeed be met by court ordered contact with the relevant grandparent.

What are the options?

Mediation

Often, the first step to resolution is to try and find a positive way to communicate. Mediation provides a forum to identify, discuss and hopefully resolve any issues or anxieties that have arisen which may have impacted on the contact or the relationships generally. It may be that concerns can be addressed and reassurance provided which then allows for progress to be made on contact.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where the parties can agree that rather than asking the court to assist, they will jointly appoint a suitably qualified arbitrator to adjudicate the issue in dispute and to provide a written decision which the parties agree to follow. Both parties have to agree to arbitrate as it is a voluntary process.

Application to Court

If the above options do not work then Grandparents can make an application to the court for permission to seek a Child Arrangements Order to set out what (if any) time the child should spend with them.

If the court is satisfied that the application will not disrupt the child’s life to such an extent that he/she would be harmed by it, then in most cases permission will be granted and the court will then move to consider the more specific facts of the case before deciding whether an order is in the best interests of the child.

If you would like advice or assistance on any issues raised in this blog, please contact Anne McAllister on 0208 971 1080 or [email protected].

Disclaimer:

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.