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About

Grandparents' rights are legal rights that allow grandparents to have a relationship with their grandchildren. These rights are dependent on the relationship between the grandparent and the parent of the child.Next steps

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The cost for a licensed solicitor to help with Grandparents' Rights is dependent on many factors including the complexity and specific requirements of the case. On average it is expected to range from £150-£200 but in some cases it could cost as much as £250.

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Grandparent's Rights

As a grandparent, you have the most wonderful opportunity to be part of your grandchild’s life, watching them grow and develop day by day. 

But, what happens when relationships break down, and one or both parents of your grandchild no longer want you to see or have contact with them?

Well, while not granting you automatic entitlements to seeing your grandchild, grandparents’ rights can help you maintain meaningful relationships with your grandchild or grandchildren.

What are the rights of grandparents in the UK?

In the UK, grandparents do not have automatic legal rights to see their grandchildren.

The law currently positions parents and those with parental responsibility as the primary decision-makers regarding their children's welfare and upbringing, including decisions about who their children can and cannot have contact with. 

However, this does not mean grandparents are without options if they wish to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren, especially where parents are not permitting contact.

There are some different things a grandparent can do including discussing the options openly with the parents of the child, enlisting the help of professional mediators, or if it comes to it, asking for permission to apply for Child Arrangement Orders. This article covers each option available.

Who holds parental responsibility over a child and how does it affect grandparents?

Parental responsibility (PR) is the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority a parent has for a child and the child's property. It allows an individual to make important decisions in the child’s life, such as where they live, their education, their religious upbringing, and consent to medical treatment.

PR is automatically held by the child's biological mother and, in most cases, the child's biological father if he is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or subsequently marries her. 

The possession of PR directly affects grandparents in situations where they wish to be involved in their grandchildren's lives, particularly in cases of family breakdown. Without PR, grandparents do not have the legal authority to make decisions about their grandchildren's lives. 

If a grandparent wishes to be more involved in decisions regarding their grandchild’s upbringing due to, for example, the absence or incapacity of the parents, they would need to seek legal means to obtain PR.

This could be through a Special Guardianship Order, which grants PR to the appointed guardian(s), or by applying for a Child Arrangements Order that decides with whom the child lives, which can also grant PR.

What should grandparents do if they cannot see their grandchildren?

When grandparents find themselves unable to see their grandchildren, the first step should involve attempting to resolve the issue amicably. 

It's best to first try and discuss the matter with the child's parents or guardians to understand their concerns and express the importance of maintaining a relationship with the grandchildren. Talking can sometimes lead to a mutually agreeable solution without legal proceedings.

If direct communication does not resolve the situation, mediation might be the next best step. Mediation involves a neutral third party helping to facilitate a discussion between the grandparents and the child's parents or guardians, aiming to reach a contact agreement.

Should these approaches not lead to a satisfactory outcome, grandparents can seek legal advice regarding their situation.

A family lawyer can guide on the likelihood of success in applying for a Child Arrangements Order through the court. This order could specify the contact arrangements between grandparents and their grandchildren.

However, it's important to note that before making an application to the court, grandparents need to seek permission from the court to apply for a Child Arrangements Order. 

The family court will consider several factors before granting permission, focusing primarily on what is best for the child, including the nature of the application, the connection between the grandparents and the child, and the potential impact on the child's life.

What different types of order can I apply for in Grandparents’ rights?

Grandparents can apply for several types of orders to maintain contact with their grandchildren or take on a more significant role in their care. 

These include:

  • Child Arrangements Order: Determines where a child lives and when they spend time with certain people.

  • Special Guardianship Order: Grants a grandparent the right to make most decisions about the child's upbringing.

  • Specific Issue Order: Addresses a particular question about a child's upbringing, such as education or medical treatment.

  • Prohibited Steps Order: Prevents specific actions by another person, like taking the child abroad without consent.

Each order serves different purposes and may be suitable depending on the circumstances. You should speak with a solicitor to understand which order is the most suitable for your specific case. 

Here at Lawhive, our network of family lawyers work remotely on your behalf for fixed fees, making legal help quick, accessible, and affordable. Contact us today for a free quote.

Can grandparents apply for a court order to see their grandchildren?

Grandparents can request a court order to establish contact with their grandchildren. This is used when all other attempts to maintain a relationship with the grandchildren have been unsuccessful, and direct negotiation or mediation with the parents is not possible or has failed.

Initially, grandparents must apply for permission from the court to proceed with an application for a Child Arrangements Order. This step is important as it assesses the viability and appropriateness of the grandparents' request before moving forward with the substantive application. 

If the court grants permission, grandparents can formally apply for a Child Arrangements Order. This order can specify the terms of contact between the grandparents and the grandchildren, aiming to facilitate and maintain their relationship. 

How can grandparents apply for child arrangement orders?

Before applying for a Child Arrangement Order, grandparents must get permission from the court. This step is necessary because the law aims to ensure that only applications with a legitimate interest in the child's welfare proceed to the full hearing. 

To get permission, grandparents must demonstrate their connection to the child and how the proposed arrangement would be in the child's best interest.

You must attend a meeting about mediation (known as a MIAM) before you can apply to the court unless you are exempt.

If you’ve done this and still want to apply for a court order, you need to:

Whoever facilitated your mediation meeting should sign the form to confirm that you attended the meeting. You will also have to pay a court fee.

Once your application is submitted, the court will decide what is in the best interest of the child. This includes the child's physical, emotional, and educational needs, the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances, and the child's age, sex, background, and any characteristics the court considers relevant. 

The relationship between the child and the grandparents, as well as any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering, will also be significant considerations.

The court will schedule a hearing where all parties can present their case. After considering all evidence and arguments, the court may decide to grant the Child Arrangement Order, specifying the terms of contact between the grandparents and their grandchildren such as:

  • Where the child will live.

  • Who a child will spend their with with and when.

  • What forms of communication should take place between the child and whoever is named in the order.

What is CAFCASS’s role in grandparents’ court proceedings?

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) plays a crucial role in court proceedings that involve children, including cases where grandparents apply for Child Arrangement Orders to gain contact with their grandchildren. 

One of the primary roles of CAFCASS is to prepare a welfare report for the court. This report gives an independent assessment of the child's needs, wishes, and feelings, as well as any potential impact of the proposed arrangements on the child's welfare. The report helps the court make informed decisions that are in the best interests of the child.

CAFCASS officers represent the child's interests within court proceedings. They ensure that the child's voice is heard and considered in decisions affecting them, especially in situations where the child may have different views or needs than those expressed by the adults involved in the case.

They can also provide expert advice to the court on matters relating to children's welfare.

Before the first hearing, CAFCASS performs safeguarding checks to identify any concerns related to the child's safety and welfare. These checks involve liaising with the police and local authorities to gather any relevant information that might impact the court's decisions.

Although primarily known for its role in the court process, CAFCASS also offers support and mediation services to help families reach amicable arrangements without the need for a court order. While this is more commonly associated with cases directly involving parents, the principles of seeking to resolve disputes amicably can also apply to cases involving grandparents.

For grandparents seeking legal contact with their grandchildren, the process involves several defined steps. 

Step 1 - Attempt resolution outside court

Before taking legal action, grandparents should attempt to resolve the matter through direct communication with the child's parents or legal guardians. 

Step 2 - Attend a mandatory Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

Before applying to the court, grandparents must usually attend a MIAM to explore whether the dispute can be resolved without going to court. Mediation offers a less contentious alternative, although it's not mandatory in certain cases.

Step 3 - Apply for permission to make an application for a Child Arrangement Order

Because grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangement Order, they must first obtain permission from the court. This involves filling out and submitting Form C2 along with any relevant documents and the application fee.

Step 4 - Apply for a Child Arrangement Order

If permission is granted, the next step is to submit Form C100 to the court. This form is used to apply for the order, detailing the requested arrangements for spending time with the grandchildren.

Once the application is submitted, the court will schedule hearings to consider the request. This process may involve several hearings, during which the court will hear evidence and arguments from all involved parties.

The court may instruct CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to prepare a report on the child's welfare, taking into account the child's feelings and any concerns about their wellbeing. CAFCASS officers might also meet with the child and all parties involved.

Step 5 - Follow court orders and consider future adjustments

If the court grants an order, it's crucial to adhere to its terms. There may be opportunities to adjust these arrangements, especially if circumstances change.

A solicitor specialising in family law can provide guidance tailored to the specific circumstances, ensuring that your application is as strong as possible and that you understand the legal nuances involved.

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Are there alternatives to court proceedings for grandparents seeking contact?

Yes, there are always alternatives to court proceedings for grandparents seeking contact with grandchildren. 

The first step is to try and resolve the issue through direct, open, and calm communication with the child's parents or guardians. Sometimes misunderstandings or temporary disputes can be resolved when all parties discuss their concerns and desires for the child's welfare.

If direct communication does not lead to a resolution, family mediation can be a viable next step. Mediation involves a neutral third party, known as a mediator, who helps families discuss and negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement regarding contact with the grandchildren. The mediator does not take sides but facilitates communication and helps explore possible solutions. This process is less adversarial than court proceedings and can help maintain more amicable family relationships.

Sometimes, the underlying issues preventing contact are emotional or stem from long-standing family conflicts. In these cases, engaging in family therapy or counselling can be beneficial. A therapist can work with the family to address these issues, improve communication, and work towards a solution that allows for contact with the grandchildren in a way that respects everyone's needs and feelings.

If mediation is successful or if the parties can come to an agreement through other means, it's possible to form an informal agreement regarding contact with the grandchildren. While not legally binding, such agreements can often be sufficient, especially when there is a willingness on all sides to maintain a positive relationship for the sake of the children.

For some families, drafting a more formal written agreement can provide clarity and a sense of commitment, even if it's not legally binding. This can be particularly useful if there's a need to specify details about the nature and frequency of contact. Although not enforceable in court, a written agreement can serve as a clear reference for all parties involved.

What if my son is not on the child’s birth certificate?

If your son is not listed on the child's birth certificate, they might not automatically have parental responsibility for the child according to UK law. 

For fathers not on the birth certificate, acquiring parental responsibility can be achieved through:

  • Parental responsibility agreement: This is a formal agreement made with the child's mother or other individuals who already have parental responsibility for the child.

  • Parental responsibility order: If an agreement cannot be reached, the father can apply to the court for a parental responsibility order. This process involves the court, which will decide based on what it believes to be in the best interests of the child.

  • Being named in a Child Arrangements Order: If a court issues an order specifying with whom the child is to live, the individual named in that order (if it's the father) will automatically gain parental responsibility.

  • Marriage to the child’s mother: If the father marries the mother after the child's birth, he can acquire parental responsibility.

For mothers, being the child's birth mother generally grants them automatic parental responsibility. However, if the concern is about ensuring that both biological parents have legal recognition and responsibility, these steps for the father to gain parental responsibility are crucial.

This situation can impact grandparents indirectly, especially in scenarios involving access to or custody of grandchildren. It might affect the legal standing and rights of the family members involved in any legal proceedings related to the child.

What are the costs associated with applying for grandparent's rights?

The application for a Child Arrangements Order requires payment of a court fee. As of March 2024, the fee for filing an application for a Child Arrangements Order (Form C100) was £215. 

Many grandparents seek legal advice or representation to help support the application process. The costs for legal services can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case, the solicitor's experience, and the length of time required to resolve the matter. Solicitors may charge an hourly rate or offer a fixed fee for certain services.

Before applying to the court, applicants are usually required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see if the dispute can be resolved without going to court. The cost of mediation services varies, but a MIAM session typically costs around £90 per person. If further mediation sessions are needed, these will incur additional costs.

There may also be other costs associated with pursuing a Child Arrangements Order, such as travel expenses for court appearances or additional costs for obtaining documents and reports that may be required as part of the application process.

What challenges might grandparents face in access or custody cases?

Family law can be complicated and often requires professional legal advice. The costs associated with legal proceedings, including court fees, solicitor fees, and mediation services, can equate to a great deal.

As we have mentioned before, grandparents need to ask for permission first before applying for a Child Arrangement Order. This requirement adds a step in the legal process and can be a hurdle in moving forward with their case.

Any legal disputes over access or custody can be emotionally taxing for everyone involved, including the grandparents, the grandchildren, and the children’s parents. The stress and strain can impact family relationships and individual well-being.

In addition to this, grandparents must demonstrate that having contact with the grandchildren is in the best interests of the grandchildren. This often involves proving a strong existing relationship and may require countering any objections from the children's parents or guardians regarding the suitability or safety of contact.

Depending on the child's age and understanding, their wishes may be considered by the court. If a child expresses a preference that does not align with the grandparents' wishes, this can be a significant challenge to overcome in the case. 

And unfortunately, even with a strong case, the outcome of legal proceedings is never guaranteed. The court's primary concern is the child's welfare, and decisions are made with this in mind, which may not always align with the grandparents' expectations or desires.

Emotions can run high in cases involving family and grandchildren. A legal advisor can offer objective, unbiased advice, helping you make informed decisions in the best interests of the grandchildren, rather than decisions driven by emotion.

In this particular instance, legal advice is important in understanding and protectingyour rights as a grandparent. While the law may not automatically grant grandparents the right to contact or custody, a solicitor can explore all available legal avenues to help you maintain or establish a relationship with your grandchildren.

As a parent, can I stop my parents from seeing their grandchildren?

As a parent, you have the primary legal right to decide who your children interact with, including their grandparents. This means that, generally, you can stop your parents from seeing their grandchildren if you choose to do so.

However, it's important to consider that grandparents can take certain steps as outlined in this article if they wish to maintain contact with their grandchildren, especially if they believe it's in the child's best interest.

Get support with Lawhive

Here at Lawhive, our network of experienced family law solicitors is on hand to provide legal advice and support in matters relating to grandparents’ rights. Whether you are simply considering your options, or have already tried negotiation and mediation, we can help you to explore your options and take legal action if needed. 

Get in touch today to get started on your case. 

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