There is little recognition for the vital role grandparents’ play in the lives of their grandchildren. Research suggests they are increasingly relied upon by parents for help with childcare and family finances. However, they can often lose contact with their grandchildren in the event of the parents’ separation or divorce.
It is hoped that a recent Government review will make it easier for grandparents to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren. The review suggests that parties engage in mediation to resolve contact issues and that the importance of grandparents be recognised by incorporating this within Parenting Agreements.
Mediation involves attending at a series of meetings with a trained family mediator to work together to resolve your issues and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This can avoid costly court proceedings or negotiations through solicitors and can take place before or after proceedings are issued.
If matters cannot be resolved directly with the parents or through mediation then it may be necessary to apply to the Court for a Contact Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. A Contact Order requires the person with whom the child lives, or is to live, to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the Order, or for alternative forms of contact e.g. by telephone.
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for a Contact Order but they can apply to the Court for permission (leave) to do so, which will usually be granted unless there are good reasons to refuse such an application.
The Court will only make a Contact Order if it is considered to be in the best interests of the child and will take into account a number of matters when making this decision, with the welfare of the child being the paramount consideration.
Palmers have a team of four specialist family solicitors who can advise you regarding your options if you are having difficulties seeing your grandchildren. We also offer a mediation service. We are committed to assisting clients to reach amicable settlements where possible, as this both reduces legal costs and avoids the emotional stress of contested court proceedings.
This article was written by Surjit Verdi, a Solicitor in the Family Department.