Do Grandparents Have Rights?
What happens when grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren? Well, the law does not allow grandparents automatic rights to see their grandchildren. Parents can choose whether or not they want their children’s grandparents to have access to them or not - which is the sad and harsh reality.
In this article today, however, we are going to be discussing in more detail grandparent rights and how the court does recognise the invaluable role grandparents do play in the lives of their grandchildren, so read on for more information.
Why Grandparents Are Important To Children's Lives
Children often build up meaningful relationships with their grandparents - as they grow up grandparents are often a big part of many children's lives and one that they forever hold fond memories of.
Grandparents can be as important in increasing children's self-esteem, as when children grow and know they are loved and that grandparents want to spend time with them can provide a sense of stability, belonging and meaningfulness to a child's life.
Many grandparents can also offer support to grandchildren, providing someone to talk to for valuable guidance.
The Options Grandparents Have
Grandparents of course do have other options. The main and easiest options usually involve repairing the relationship between their adult children, as it is these broken-down relationships that are often the reason for parents preventing their children from seeing and spending time with their grandparents.
At times, mending broken relationships to fix the problem simply isn’t possible in some cases, at times like this when cases like this are difficult to resolve, a professional social worker can be brought in to help be the mediator and find a resolution - this can be a good option for grandparents and a way of dodging having the issue being taken to court.
Grandparents And The Courts
Due to the nature of the courts respecting grandparents and understanding the important role, grandparents have the ability to play in the lives of their grandchildren, it is often rare that a court would refuse a grandparent access to their grandchildren unless the courts have a good reason and sufficient evidence as to why not to, such as evidence of abuse, violence or neglect.
Grandparents' rights are limited and it is only people with parental responsibility who can make an application for a Contact Order. This includes parents, step-parents or guardians - although grandparents can, however, apply for permission to apply for a Contact Order, and the courts will consider it if it includes any of the following cases:
- 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.
It is only once grandparents have successfully won permission to apply for a Contact Order can they then go through the courts to gain access to their grandchildren. The law confirms that granting this does not automatically pressure that an application for a Child Arrangement Order will be successful.
What Happens In Court?
One or both parents may have objections and in this case. Grandparents are likely to have to attend a full hearing in which both parties can put forward their evidence.
It is essential that grandparents receive expect legal advice at this stage as they will need to persuade the court that they have a meaningful and ongoing relationship with their grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.
The court will always consider the child or children's circumstances and must only make an order where they consider it better for the child than making no order at all.
The courts will always weigh up whether contact between grandchildren and grandparents could have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships too - only in extreme circumstances will a court refuse access to grandchildren.
Grandparents Legal Rights
The European Court of Justice ruled in May 2019 that grandparents do have a legal right to see their grandchildren. The right of access refers to others that are important for a child to maintain a relationship with.
British law under the Children Act 1989 states that if you are a parent whose name is on the birth certificate, you automatically have parental responsibility and an automatic right to apply to the Court for any issues relating to the children, for example when you see them.
As a grandparent has no automatic right whatsoever, this means that if an agreement cannot be reached, the only option is to apply to the Court and for a Child Arrangement Order - which grants permission to see your grandchildren.
The process allows the filtering out of the grandparents who do not have the child's best interests at heart.
There is such a thing called a Guardianship which grandparents can attain which is a more legally secure placement of the child than a residence order.
Grandparents can apply for a Guardianship if certain needs are met, for example, if the local authorities are considering applying for a Care Order and having a child adopted - in which case, grandparents can apply to be foster carers, have a Residence Order or have the possibility of adopting grandchildren - a Guardianship Order can happen depending on the situation.
What Bell Lamb & Joynson Can Do For You
At Bell Lamb & Joynson, we have successfully helped many grandparents resolve family disputes and helped them to gain access to their grandchildren.
Through life's ups and downs our expert team of expert family law solicitors who have over 200 years of experience helping families all across the North West, so we know especially that when things get tough, you need someone you can trust and help to offer the right advice and lend a shoulder to lean on and listening ear.
If help is needed with access to your grandchildren, or have any queries or questions to do with grandparents or any other family issues then please do not hesitate to call us.