Contact with your grandchild following divorce or separation
For most, memories of spending time with their grandparents will be fond and cherished ones, and vice versa. For many working couples, grandparents also provide valuable child care support for their grandchildren.
However, when a couple decide to separate, the focus tends to be on when each of the parents will spend time with the children and the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is often forgotten.
In an amicable separation, the grandparents may be able to liaise with one or both parents to ensure the relationship is maintained, however this is not always possible. Family Solicitor, Victoria Cobham explores the options available to grandparents wanting to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren when parent’s divorce or separate.
Unlike the children’s parents, grandparents have no automatic legal right to see their grandchildren. Grandparents seeking to establish or maintain contact with their grandchildren following a separation have two options open to them.
- Agreement with parents
- An application to court for a Child Arrangements Order.
The first step should always be to try and open up a dialogue with the parents to try and agree arrangements. There are a number of ways that you can open the lines of communication be that writing a letter, or attending a roundtable meeting or mediation.
If an agreement is reached, whilst not binding, this can be recorded in correspondence, or part of a parenting plan.
Child Arrangements Order
If an agreement can’t be reached then a court application for a Child Arrangements Order may be required. A Child Arrangements Order sets out with whom a child should live and spend time with.
For grandparents this is often a 2-stage process, as they will usually need to request permission from the court to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order.
The courts have a very strict set of criteria that grandparents need to meet before allowing automatic applications and so for the majority permission to apply is required.
Stage 1 – Requesting permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order
When reaching the decision as to whether to grant permission to be able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, the court will consider the following factors:-
- the nature of the application i.e., what Order(s) you are asking the court to make;
- the applicant’s (in this case grandparents) connection with the children;
- any risk that the proposed application will disrupt the child’s life to an extent that they are harmed by it.
Please note there are additional considerations if grandchildren are in the care of the Local Authority.
Stage 2 – Applying for a Child Arrangements Order
If permission to apply is granted the court will set a date for a hearing but this process may involve two or more court hearings.
The court may appoint a CAFCASS officer (court appointed social worker) to speak/meet with all the parties and the grandchildren and report back to the court.
In making a decision about whether a Child Arrangements Order should be made, the most important consideration is the welfare of any child(ren). The court has a checklist of things which must be taken into account when considering a child’s welfare which includes:-
- The wishes and feelings of the child taking into account their age;
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
- The likely effect of a change in circumstances;
- The child’s age, sex, background and any relevant characteristics;
- Any harm or risk of harm to the child;
- The ability to meet the child’s needs.
If you are a grandparent and concerned about maintaining a relationship with your grandchildren following a divorce or separation, please contact Victoria Cobham on 01749 342323 or email email@example.com we can consider your individual circumstances and advise you on whether to make an application to court