Despite what many people think, grandparents do not actually have the same legal rights for their grandchildren as the children’s parents. This news often comes as an unwelcome surprise, especially to grandparents who have been regularly involved in looking after their grandchildren.
Sadly, the breakdown of the children’s parent’s relationship, or the intervention of social services in family life by removing children in to Local Authority care can mean that grandparents are suddenly stopped from seeing their grandchildren. It is all too often at that unhappy moment that many grandparents learn for the first time that they do not have any automatic legal right to see their grandchildren.
All is not lost however! Increasingly, the Family Court is understanding the vital role that grandparents can play in their grandchildren’s lives. There are applications that can be made by grandparents to the Courts for contact with their grandchildren. In some situations it might be possible to get Legal Aid public funding for the case as well.
In a case where grandparents’ contact has been stopped by the child’s parent the Court must first be asked to give permission to the grandparents before an application for contact can be made. If either of the children’s parents object to permission being given, the Court will hold a hearing to listen to everyone’s point of view and then decide whether to grant permission or not. The Court will have in mind the children’s welfare first and foremost. The Court will also look at the grandparents’ connection with the children, the nature of their application and finally whether the grandparents’ application might be in any way potentially harmful to the children’s wellbeing.
Assuming the Court gives permission to the grandparents, they can then make their application for contact to be re-started. Again, the welfare of the children will be the most important factor for the Court.
In cases where a Local Authority has removed a child in to care, this often does impact on grandparents’ ability to see their grandchildren. If the Local Authority refuses to allow contact to the grandparents of a looked after child, grandparents can ask the Court for permission to get involved in their grandchildren’s case. If the Court allows this involvement then an application for contact with a child in care can be made. There may need to be some enquires undertaken by social services and CAFCASS to make sure contact will be safe but is usually only in very serious circumstances that a Court would refuse grandparents access to their grandchildren.
It is usually a good idea to get legal advice and the assistance of a specialist family lawyer when faced with these situations. At Askews Legal LLP in Coventry, we have the necessary legal knowledge and expertise to help you through these difficult, confusing and emotional times. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if we can help you regain contact with your grandchildren.
For further advice in connection with Grandparents’ rights or any child care related issue, contact James Lee, Head of Care:
Tel: 024 7623 1000