Grandparents’ rights to see grandchildren: a complete guide
This article looks at the rights that grandparents have to see their grandchildren, in different scenarios. Everyone’s situation is different, but the Mediation First team provides some general advice for people who live in England in this guide. If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the rules and guidance are different.
What are my rights as a grandparent?
Grandparents do not automatically have parental responsibility, which are the legal rights and responsibilities afforded to all mothers and most fathers. However, grandparents can still take legal action - e.g.,to seek contact with a grandchild or, typically with the support of a local authority, to take responsibility for the care of a grandchild.
Generally, there are three common scenarios where grandparents may want to take legal action:
- Grandparents seeking contact with a grandchild where contact has been stopped
- Grandparents seeking care of the grandchild
- Grandparents as primary caregivers in disputes with parents
1. Grandparents seeking contact with a grandchild where contact has been stopped
In cases where an amicable solution can’t be met, grandparents can use mediation to agree on contact arrangements with the primary caregivers to the grandchildren.
Approaching the matter via mediation, as opposed to heading straight for the courts, can save all parties time, money, and stress. However, in the case where court intervention is required, grandparents still need to attend a MIAM, where a professional mediator can provide information on the process for applying for a Child Arrangements Order.
2. Grandparents seeking care of the grandchild
Grandparents may seek care of their grandchild in a number of scenarios, including kinship, foster care, special guardianship orders, or adoption. Because all of these scenarios require a legal ruling and local authority involvement, mediation is less common in these cases.
3. Grandparents as primary caregivers in disputes with parents
In scenarios where grandparents are the primary caregivers, disputes can arise with parents and other parties who may want to seek contact with the child or children and/or assume primary care. In these scenarios, mediation can help parties to come to an agreement, starting with a MIAM. If an agreement isn’t reached, court applications for Child Arrangement Orders can be pursued from here.
What should I do if I can’t see my grandchildren?
If your grandchild’s primary carer is denying you access or visitation to your grandchildren, perhaps as a result of a separation between parents – there are a few routes that you can take. When amicable negotiations between grandparents and primary carers have failed; mediation is the next port of call and the first step is to make an appointment to attend a MIAM.
Mediation can be successful in achieving a solution that works for grandparents and primary carers. Family mediation is available both in person, and online. Even where mediation is not appropriate, attending a MIAM can still help as the mediator can provide useful information on the subject.
The Mediation First team can advise you on this process in more depth. Contact us today, to discuss with one of our professionals, or read on for more insights into how to secure your rights.
The legal process for grandparents wanting to see their grandchildren
Grandparents who are seeking to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order will first need to obtain permission from the court. This is a relatively straightforward process in which the court considers the following factors:
- The past and current nature of the grandparent's relationship with the grandchild.
- The nature of the application.
- If contact with the grandparents would cause harm to the child.
- If continuing contact with the grandparents would cause harm to other family members.
If the court grants permission, the application for a Child Arrangements Order will continue in the usual way.
Here’s a breakdown of the different ways that a grandparent can secure their rights when trying to get access to their grandchildren.
Attending a MIAM
A MIAM, or a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, is the start of the mediation process. This is where participants discuss the background and nature of the case with their mediator. The mediator uses this session to determine if mediation is the right route for the family. It’s also an opportunity for participants to ask the mediator any questions they have about the process, and how long the process might take.
After MIAMs with the grandparent(s) and parents(s) , and if the mediator determines that mediation is safe and appropriate , the mediation process can begin. It will take place over a number of sessions, dependent on the needs of each case. The aim is for the mediator to guide both parties through negotiation, in order to find a solution that works for the grandparents and the primary carers. In a successful mediation, clients can request that proposals are recorded in a formal document known as an Outcome Statement
Making an application to court
Making an application to the court requires the completion of a C100 form. Grandparents should use this to start court proceedings for a Child Arrangements Order. The focus should be on what’s best for the child, and how your involvement would be of benefit. When considering the nature of your involvement with your grandchild, the court may consider the option of indirect contact and direct contact.
Indirect contact is where a court orders that a grandparent can communicate with grandchildren through messages, emails, calls, and video calls. However, no in-person contact is provided here.
If a court orders that a grandparent should have direct contact, then this asserts their rights to see their grandchild in person, and spend time with them in person.
Family court hearings
If the court chooses not to allow access to your grandchildren, you may be able to appeal this decision and – further court hearings can be pursued. This will once again involve pitching your case, and explaining why your involvement in your grandchild’s life is necessary and beneficial.
Resources for grandparents in the UK
If you’re a grandparent looking for more information about your rights, here are some more Mediation First resources for you to refer to:
- Child Arrangements Order
- Special Guardianship Order
- Need for excessive admiration
- Foster care
- Full adoption
Grandparents' rights: final thoughts
Although grandparents do not have automatic parental rights, there are routes that you can take as a grandparent seeking access, visitation, or contact with your grandchildren. Mediation is an efficient, low-stress, and conflict option in comparison to pursuing court cases. But even in cases where a court order is necessary – mediation can be a helpful tool to facilitate negotiations between both parties.
Contact Mediation First, today to discuss your options further.