What are the grandparent’s rights when their child divorces?
The law in England and Wales does not automatically give a legal right for grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren. If grandparents are prevented from contact with their grandchildren, legal advice needs to be taken.
Therefore, it is best that grandparents appear not to take sides. This may go against their feelings, but antagonising the other parent can restrict the relationship with the grandchildren.
The law in England and Wales is designed to help parties resolve family law disputes between themselves. If gentle approaches such as writing a letter or email to the parents fail to change the situation, a mediation session might be the next step to improve relations. Often time can heal a rift within the family. Try to be patient, and keep in touch with your grandchild using letters, email or phone calls if possible.
Child Arrangement Order
Mediation sessions are voluntary. Parents cannot be forced to attend mediation sessions. However, the judge may see a refusal to attend mediation in an unfavourable light should the matter proceed to the Family Court.
If mediation is unsuccessful in resolving the dispute or the parents refuse to attend mediation, grandparents can apply for a Child Arrangement Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
If grandparents apply for a Child Arrangement Order from the family court, the following will be taken into consideration:
- The nature of the proposed application for the Order;
- The applicant’s connection with the child;
- Any risk that the proposed Order would disrupt the child’s life to such an extent that it would harm them.
It is important to note; the welfare of the child is the overriding consideration of the Family Court. The decision as to whether to grant a Child Arrangement Order and what form the Order will take depends on the importance of the grandparental relationship from the child’s point of view.
Special Guardianship Order
If the grandchildren’s parents are experiencing problems and social services have become involved, a “Special Guardianship Order” may be obtained to take over the care of the grandchildren.
A Special Guardianship Order is an order appointing one or more individuals to be a child’s special guardian. A Special Guardianship Order will grant grandparents parental responsibility. It is a half-way between a residence order and an adoption order. This enables them to make decisions regarding the day-to-day care of the children, their schooling and medical requirements.
In cases where the children are very young, or the parents are permanently unable to take care of them, adoption may be best. If you wish to adopt your grandchild, the parents will need to give their consent unless:
- the parents are untraceable
- they are incapable of giving consent, e.g. due to a mental disability
- the child would be put at risk if they weren’t adopted
Adopting a grandchild is a decision not to be taken lightly. Therefore, it is important you take legal advice before considering such a step.
The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is often not given the credit it deserves. Unfortunately, the rights of grandparents aren’t considered in law. Grandparents provide love, warmth, security, wisdom, and attention to children. If a grandchildren’s parents are separating or experiencing personal difficulties, the presence of a grandparent is crucial to provide stability and support. The grandparents love and support in a grandchild’s life should be a right and you should seek legal advice if it is being restricted.
If you require advice on this, please contact us on 0880 177 7702 or leave a message here.