What can be more heartbreaking than the prospect of not seeing your grandchildren? I have met many distressed grandparents whose main concern is for the grandchildren they cannot see: theirs is a uniquely painful situation. But don’t give up hope – there’s lots you can do.
Do grandparents have rights?
Do grandparents have rights? Sadly, no. Parliament has debated a change in the law but that’s not imminent. But there are many practical steps you can take.
Why does this happen to grandparents?
An acrimonious divorce, the desperately sad breakdown of a relationship with your child, the influence of a controlling or jealous new partner… There is much talk of parental alienation and how the breakdown of relationships leads to links being cut with the extended family. But whatever it’s called, and whatever causes it, the upshot is that a previously healthy and supportive relationship with the grandchildren is abruptly ended. This is a guide to what you can do.
What can grandparents do?
This won’t work for everyone but maybe you could be the bigger person and try to start a positive conversation with the parent/s? But, whatever you do, don’t take sides if it’s a divorce case. And please try to make allowances for the raw feelings that will be flying around. Instead concentrate on how you can help out with the grandchildren.
There’s so much at stake, wouldn’t you try anything, even eating humble pie? After all, you could soon be eating apple pie with your grandchildren. And remember, in the early days of a split or disagreement everything is up in the air. Give it a little time and communications will become easier.
It’s important to remember …
… to put the grandchildren first. It’s not about your feelings, or the parent/s feelings, it’s all about the grandchildren.
Put forward a proposal …
For example, to see or look after the grandchildren once a week, or to phone them, or to Skype with them, or to send them presents or cards. But make sure it’s a realistic proposal you can stick to. This avoids disappointment for the grandchildren and misunderstandings between the grown ups.
If you can’t sort it out between you, suggest mediation. Mediators are trained to help resolve family disputes.
Going to Court – the facts
Going to Court is always the final option because it’s expensive, stressful, uncertain and it can drive families further apart. Please make sure you take advice from an expert Family Law Solicitor first. The guiding principle in all cases about children is their welfare. So the question is, would it be in their best interests to see you?
Child Arrangements Order
You will be making an application for an Order for example that the grandchildren spend time with you. This is known as a Child Arrangements Order.
But first …
You must attend a “MIAM” and you must apply to the Court for “leave”
Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
Before you start Court proceedings you must attend a MIAM. The parent/s will also receive an invitation and will attend separately. The aim is to give both of you information about how mediation might help.
Applying to the Court for ‘leave’
Complete Form C2 for permission (‘leave’) to start proceedings. (You need leave because you are not the parent). In brief:
- The Court fee is £215 unless you are eligible to help with Court fees.
- Attach your application for a Child Arrangements Order on Form C100.
- Send the application to your nearest divorce Court .
- The Court recognises the value of grandparents but does not automatically grant leave – there is likely to be an enquiry into the circumstances and this may involve a hearing where evidence is considered.
Application for a Child Arrangements Order
If you’re granted leave your application for a Child Arrangements Order will proceed. The initial hearing will provide another opportunity for an agreement to be reached at the “Dispute Resolution Appointment”. You will meet the “Cafcass Officer” (from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) whose job it is to safeguard the interests of children.
A variety of Orders can be made at the first hearing but most likely are:
- Cafcass to prepare a Report (they will meet you, the parent/s and the grandchildren)
- You and the parent/s to prepare statements
Fingers crossed the Cafcass report recommends something along the lines of your proposal, and fingers crossed the parent/s accept it. Otherwise there will be a hearing where all are required to give evidence.
Don’t feel alone …
Take advice from an experienced Family Law Solicitor. And there are some great charities and organisations offering support to grandparents such as the Grandparents Association (Grandparents Plus) and Family Lives and Citizens Advice. Do grandparents have rights? No, but there are many steps they can take.
Do grandparents have rights?
Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on “Do Grandparents have Rights”. In this 20 minute session we will discuss positive steps you can take to seeing your grandchildren again.
JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.
image Baby trifft auf Möwe by R Bajela on Wikimedia