National Grandparent’s Day, which took place on 3 October, was founded by the charity Age UK and it is a special day to celebrate our grandparents and how they enrich our lives. If you are fortunate enough to have had a relationship with your grandparents it is likely that this day evokes memories with them or perhaps makes you think of the role they still play in your life.
Whether it is from spending quality time with grandchildren or providing informal child care, grandparents are often a strong influence on children’s lives. Unfortunately, the bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be put in jeopardy when a couple’s relationship breaks down. If contact diminishes as a result of a separation or divorce you might be left wondering what, if anything, you can do about it.
The courts recognise the importance of contact with grandparents, provided it is in the best interests of the child. Outlined below are the different steps you can take to maintain access to your grandchildren following their parents’ separation:
Informal family-based arrangement
The first port of call should be to try and come to an agreement with your family members. Let the parents know that you support them both during this difficult time and that it is important to you to keep in contact with the grandchildren.
If you can’t work it out informally and think you would benefit from a third party facilitating the discussions you can attend mediation. An independent family mediator can help your family come to an agreement.
Apply for a court order
As a grandparent you do not have an automatic legal right to have contact with your grandchildren. However, if it is considered to be in the child’s best interest to spend time with you the Court can order that this takes place. This means if the above approaches fail, you can apply to court for contact. You will need permission of the Court to make this application so will need to also apply for leave to apply. The Court will then consider a range of factors in deciding if you should be able to bring the application. If you can bring the application, any decision by the Court about contact will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.
If you have any questions about this, do get in touch and the Russell-Cooke family team can advise you in light of your specific circumstances.