grandparents' rights to child custodyFamily lawyers are often asked whether grandparents have an automatic right to see their grandchildren. Often, they want to know what rights grandparents have due to a family dispute or because their adult child has separated from their partner. In many cases, it is the grandparents of the father that struggle to get to see their grandchildren as children most often end up residing with the mother after a divorce or if family relations have broken down. According to research by Statista, children end up with the mother in about 9 in 10 cases following a family divorce or breakdown.

What legal rights to grandparents have to see their grandchildren?

Sadly, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren in these circumstances. In the first instance it is always best to try and reach an agreement with the parents or legal guardians of the child before going through the Court. However, the Court does recognise that grandparents play an invaluable role in children’s lives, and there are actions that grandparents can take to try and gain access to their grandchildren.

What legal action can grandparents take to get access to grandchildren?

What are grandparents’ rights in the UK? Normally, if the parent that the child lives with refuses a significant person in that child’s life (e.g. a grandparent) access to them, then they can apply to the Court for a Contact Order. When a Contact Order is granted, this enforces the parent with which the child resides to allow the grandparent to have contact with their grandchild. Unfortunately, only people with legal parental responsibility for that child, such as a parent, stepparent, or legal guardian, have an automatic right to make an application for a Contact Order.

However, grandparents can still apply to the Court for the right to make a Contact Order. When deciding whether to grant you the opportunity to file a Contact Order, they will consider:

  1. The grandparent(s’) relationship and connection to the child
  2. The nature of the application
  3. The child’s interest and whether the application could be harmful to them

If the grandparents are successful in their application, they must then make an official application for a Contact Order. Once that application has been filed, the parents or legal guardians will have a right to raise an objection, and if they do so, then it is likely the grandparent will need to attend a full hearing. During this hearing, both sides will be able to put forward evidence for their case.

Grandparents may be asked by the court to provide evidence that they have a relationship with the child in question, and if this happens, grandparents may wish to seek out the guidance of a good family lawyer.

Considerations such as the circumstances of the child are then likely to be made, and under which living situation the child would benefit most from. This information along with further detail is then used as the basis of the Court’s decision.

I’m a parent, can I stop my parents from seeing their grandchild?

On rare occasions, grandparents can be refused access to a grandchild if their continued contact with them is deemed to be detrimental to them. Grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren unless they are a legal guardian of that child. There is an option to apply to the Court for a Contact Order, and if successful, this Order would give the grandparents a legal right to see their children.

In this circumstance, as a parent, you are entitled to make an objection. The Court will always consider what is best for the child, and if you go to court it is important to get good legal advice from an experienced family lawyer. 

Cordell Cordell have significant experience in this area of family law and have worked with many grandparents and parents regarding disputes in relation to access to grandchildren.  For expert legal advice, contact one of our dedicated family lawyers.