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Are grandparents legally entitled to gain contact with their grandchildren?

Date: November 11th, 2010 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

We live in stressful times where most parents have to work to support their children. Loving grandparents are a great asset to any family under such circumstances, often providing invaluable care, support and guidance for children during working hours.

60% of childcare in the UK is provided by grandparents, according to statistics released last year available at Grandparents Plus, a national charity that advocates for the vital role played by grandparents and wider family in the lives of children.

An article by Hele McArdle in the Scottish Herald published on 19 May 2009 highlights the importance of grandparents in childcare.

Grandparents have been hailed as a backbone of the British economy in a number of recent studies, including a report by Age Concern that found they saved parents almost £4bn every year on childcare costs.

The beneficial grandparent-child bond can be upset or even destroyed following a split between the children’s parents. If a relationship turns sour, grandparents face the possibility of losing all contact with their grandchildren.

What should grandparents do in the event of a split?

As it stands, UK law states that only those with parental rights, usually the two names on a birth certificate, are able to apply for contact or residence as of right. This effectively means that grandparents are not legally entitled to see their grandchildren, and cannot demand access unless they can get permission from the Court to make an application.

If you are worried about losing contact with your grandchildren, first try a direct approach. The end of a relationship between two people who share children can be a very distressing time so it is important to be sensitive. Assure both parents that you do not want to take sides but would like to continue being there for grandchildren.

Can you go to court?

If you are still denied contact with your grandchildren following a direct approach you can apply to a court for permission to apply for a Contact Order. In deciding whether to grant permission or not the court will consider:

  • Your connection with the child
  • The nature of the application for contact
  • Whether or not the application is in the best interests of a child’s well-being
  • If you are wise you will engage a lawyer.

If your application is approved you can take the next step and apply for a Contact Order. However, if one or both of the child’s parents object you will have to attend a full hearing to present your case.

Is it worth it?

Courts are increasingly recognising the good influence that grandparents can have on children. Progress was made in Scotland in 2006 when the Government approved the creation of the Grandparents’ Charter, which sets out the rights of grandparents although these are not legally binding. Scottish grandparents are also allowed to apply for a Contact Order without gaining permission from a court first.

A strong relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be enormously beneficial to both parties as well as the wider family. Â If you fear you may be barred from contact you should find out about the options available to you.

You can also contact a specialised family law firm such as Brookman for further advice.

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