Legal Advice for Grandparents in Relation to Grandchildren
Grandparents Rights following a relationship breakdown involving their grandchildren can be confusing. A challenging and frequently unacknowledged outcome of a divorce or separation can be children being deprived of time with their close relatives.
If you have a son or daughter whose relationship has broken down, and there are children involved, you would probably be interested to know what you could do if you find that as a result, your contact with them has been stopped or greatly reduced.
Where provisions for child contact arrangements are made through the court, this does not always include grandparents. This can be extremely hard for the child, for whom maintaining a relationship with much loved grandparents can be a great comfort after the separation of their parents.
If you are seeking to enforce your Grandparents Rights, experiencing problems with access to your grandchild, or worried about the loss of contact due to the separation of their parents, the solicitors at Clifford Johnston are on hand to offer legal advice.
Why Choose Clifford Johnston & Co?
At Clifford Johnston, we appreciate the significant role you play as a grandparent.
Unfortunately, the first family members to be alienated in a relationship breakdown are often grandparents. Our team of family law solicitors have extensive experience in helping clients in the same situation as you.
Clifford Johnston can advise on the legal process and solutions available to you, to allow you to rebuild your relationship with your grandchildren and can advise grandparents who might want to look after a grandchild full-time. Based in Greater Manchester, we pride ourselves on our outstanding reputation for offering legal advice to grandparents from all over the North West, England, and Wales.
Our knowledgeable solicitors are skilled and empathetic when helping grandparents who are in this unfortunate situation, and we will guide you through your options with empathy.
Do Grandparents Rights include access to Grandchildren?
First and foremost, the court will not consider specifically the right of a grandparent to see a grandchild, but will look at a case from the point of view of the rights of the child to see their grandparents. Under the laws of England and Wales, grandparents do not have automatic access rights, and they do not have automatic parental responsibility.
While grandparents do not have legal rights to see a grandchild, parents do have the legal right to choose who their children see, therefore it is advisable to keep your relationship with your son or daughter amicable and constructive if at all possible.
Get in touch with Clifford Johnston today and our solicitors will discuss the various options available to you. We understand that this can be a worrying time and will be on hand every step of the way to provide practical assistance as well as clear advice.
Can Grandparents Have Parental Responsibility?
A common misconception about childcare following a relationship breakdown is that the mothers automatically find themselves in favourable positions regarding custody rights. While this is common, it is far from the only option.
Grandparents can be allowed to obtain parental responsibility if a child arrangements order for grandparents is pursued, under which they are able to spend time with a grandchild, have them living with them, or even be granted some level of custody of the child. In most cases, such parental responsibility orders are enforced jointly with the parents. A more extensive parental responsibility agreement can be discussed if a grandparent seeks a Special Guardianship Order, in circumstances where neither parent is able to provide childcare full time.
If arrangements cannot be made between you and the child’s parents, then you may have to start court proceedings. The family courts acknowledge that grandparents can play a fundamental role in the child's life, so there are ways for you to request contact with a grandchild through court proceedings.
Should Grandparents Attempt Mediation to See Their Grandchildren?
Family mediation can be a very effective tool in pursuing your Grandparents Rights following your son’s or daughter’s relationship breakdown. Given how complicated it can be to obtain any Grandparent Rights, involving a family mediator should be the first step.
Before making a request for permission to seek a child arrangement order, you should book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting, also known as a MIAM. Your case will be assessed by an independent mediator, and you will be informed of the different options regarding family mediation.
If mediation is deemed to be a suitable route for your case, the parents of the child will be informed and will also attend a MIAM. Should the mediator decide that mediation is suitable for both parties, mediation will begin.
There are situations in which family mediation is not deemed suitable. In these cases, the mediator will issue a mediation certificate, stating that mediation has failed. You will then be able to seek a child arrangement order with the court.
Child Arrangement Orders Involving Grandparents
Child arrangements orders are court orders which regulate living and contact arrangements, usually after divorce or separation of their parents. Orders can also be made to enable a grandchild to see or stay with a grandparent. Sometimes, courts may be able to grant full or joint custody rights of the child to grandparents.
Such orders may be made when the parents are still together. Every case is different and what order is made will depend on the circumstances.
There is no automatic Grandparents Rights to apply for a child arrangement order, although there are some exceptions. It is worth making every effort to resolve matters in other ways before applying to the court. To discuss whether any of the exceptions apply to your unique circumstances, talk to a qualified solicitor at Clifford Johnston today.
If all other avenues have been exhausted, the first step is to request permission from the court to make an application for a child arrangement order. The court will take into consideration various factors such as:
- The involvement grandparents have in the children’s lives
- The reason for the application
- The opinions of the parents
- Benefits of the order for the child’s life
More often than not, permission to make a full application is granted and, unless the case is settled, the court will enable the parties involved to give evidence before deciding on what final order should be made.
Grandparents Rights: Special Guardianship
If a child’s parents are unable to take proper care of a child, a Special Guardianship Order may be put in place to appoint another set of carers.
If a grandparent is suggested as a Special Guardian, the local authority will assess whether they are suitable. The Special Guardianship provides the Special Guardians with parental responsibility which means they can make decisions for the child without having to consult the child’s parents. A Special Guardianship order is designed to give the child a permanent home until they reach the age of 18.
Parents, or those with parental responsibility, can make an application to the Court to end a Special Guardianship Order as long as they can demonstrate that there have been substantial changes in their circumstances since the Special Guardianship Order was put in place.
Grandparents Rights After Adoption and Foster Care
Difficulties can arise when a grandchild is fostered or adopted. If a child has to go into care, the local authority has a responsibility to encourage contact with the child’s birth family, as long as it is appropriate for the child’s welfare.
The first consideration is always given to parents, which means a child's relationship with the grandparents is not often seen as a priority by Children’s Services.
An order stipulating contact with the grandparents may be arranged when the adoption order is put in place, so that the children can still spend time with their birth grandparents. However, this is quite rare unless the adoption is within the family.
Are Grandparents Allowed to Adopt Their Grandchildren?
There is nothing in law stopping a grandparent from adopting their grandchild, although the family relationship may become skewed. This is why Special Guardianship Orders are usually preferred over adoption orders for grandparents who are wanting a grandchild to live with them permanently.
Grandparents Rights After the Death of a Parent
Grandparents are not inevitably given the right to care for a grandchild following the death of one or both of the child’s parents.
It might be more appropriate for an uncle or auntie to care for the child due to their age, but, on many occasions, uncles and aunts will already have childcare commitments. In this situation, grandparents would be seen as the more appropriate option to care for the child.
Normally, families are able to decide these matters between themselves.
It is essential to remember that, when making a will, it is necessary to consider who should be assigned as a Guardian for children if their parents pass away. Clifford Johnston is on hand to discuss your options in more detail and to give you any further information you need with regards to Grandparents Rights, please get in touch with a member of the family team for more information.
Contact Our Child Law Solicitors Today
We regularly help local families with all matters relating to child custody and access so for professional, confidential advice contact us today.
Our friendly team will deal with your enquiry sensitively and with understanding, so contact us today for helpful and supportive advice. Our firm is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
With offices in Stockport (Heaton Moor) & Manchester (Burnage), our expert family solicitors are easily accessible. We represent clients not only locally and throughout Stockport, Cheshire, Lancashire & Manchester but also across the United Kingdom. You can count on us to help and guide you whatever your challenge or circumstance.