Around 8,000 grandparents have sought advice about gaining contact with their grandchildren, with many seeking legal action as a result, according to recent figures from the Grandparents' Association.
If you're a grandparent and find yourself in this situation, there are ways to resolve this. Angela Lally family expert from QualitySolicitors gives advice on how to go about it
Attempt to resolve it yourself
This may sound like a lazy tip from a lawyer, but settling things outside of the court room without legal help is possible and in fact can be much better for the child. Through independent negotiation with the other party, you could agree on your own terms and conditions. Other options include mediation, where a third party assists you to reach an agreement. The child’s best interests should always be paramount and for that reason, the court process should be a definite last resort.
The child’s best interests should always be paramount
Know your law
If all means of communication do break down and it does have to go further, then you can make an application for a Child Arrangement Order from the Court – however, as a grandparent you don’t have an automatic right to apply. This means the Court has to first decide if they should give you that right. This is called granting “leave” and three factors are taken into account:
- The nature of the proposed application
- The applicant's connection with the child
- Any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that they would be harmed by it.
Seek legal advice
With the nature of the proposed application being taken into account, it is incredibly important to make sure your claim and application is correct, both legally and grammatically. QualitySolicitors offers a Free First Advice service (0800 882 4946), where you can speak to a solicitor who can chat you through the process. Or if you'd like to discuss specific questions in a face-to-face meeting, it offers a one-to-one 45-minute Ask the Legal Expert service for a £99 fee.
Be aware of the outcomes
If a Child Arrangement Order is made providing for contact this can be in two ways – direct or in-direct. Direct is face-to-face contact (ie actually seeing the child). In-direct is contact through email, letters, phone calls or other in-direct communication tools. Of course, the latter may not seem as good, but it’s a start!
Be prepared for the long haul
The court process can be long and expensive. There could be multiple court hearings, and with each parent possibly having separate legal representatives as well, the costs will pile up! On top of that, it is also definitely a stressful and emotional experience. But with the right advice and assistance there is a possibility it can be resolved easily and quickly!
"Won’t somebody think of the children"
When making its decision the court considers what is in the best interest of the child, with the child’s welfare being the most important factor. To do this, they may appoint a Cafcass officer or an Independent Social Worker to advise what actually is best for the child. Also, if the child is old enough, their opinions may be taken into account. This should also be the main consideration if you decide to try to resolve things independently.
- There's more grandparenting advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.