Time with grandparents who love them gives children increased self-esteem and a grounding in the form of family relationships and origins. Sadly, some grandparents are denied access to their grandchildren. The law does not give grandparents any automatic rights to be in their grandchildren’s lives. So, parents can keep children away from grandparents if they choose to.
This doesn’t mean as grandparents you do not have options. Resolving problems between all the adults involved is usually the best solution. If you get nowhere in discussions directly with the other party, or find it difficult to raise the subject at all, a professional social worker, solicitor or mediator can help find a resolution.
There may be situations in which you as a grandparent, or indeed other family members, are concerned that a child is not being looked after sufficiently by the parent they are living with. You may feel that they would be better off living elsewhere, and may want advice on how to take this forward. Worrying situations may include addiction/substance abuse, abuse, or neglect.
Unfortunately, parents might then try to prevent their children from seeing you because you are trying to intervene. Further distancing you from the children. In circumstances like these, we highly recommend seeking the advice of a divorce lawyer or family solicitor on the steps you should take. If you are concerned about living arrangements for children with whom you have a close relationship, or you feel that you are not being allowed sufficient contact with your grandchild, we are here to help.
How does the process work?
We advise that if you are a grandparent with little or no contact with your grandchildren, to firstly consider if you have made sufficient attempts to reach agreements with adult family members before you start the process. If all other discussions have failed, it might still be possible to reach an agreement directly between the parties with further discussions, helped by solicitors.
If this is the case, as long as the terms of agreement are confirmed in writing and both parties have a copy, it may not be necessary to formalise the arrangements any further if both parties are agreed.
If an agreement cannot be reached, there are a number of local mediation services available. Mediation will be a better and more cost effective option than issuing Court proceedings. It can generally be a more positive experience focusing on the child concerned if started early enough.
Before an application is made to a Court, you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting (MIAM). Attendance at this meeting is compulsory if an application is to be made to the Court, although there may be exemptions available, for example if your grandchild is at risk of significant harm.
Lloyd Platt & Co could support you through the process by being there to talk about any issues resulting from the mediation at a meeting or on the phone whilst the mediation is ongoing. We could also then assist in formalising any agreement which is reached following the mediation.
If mediation is not considered appropriate to your personal circumstances, refused by either party, or simply doesn’t work, then unfortunately a more formal method of sorting out the issues over the child arrangements will be necessary through the local Family Courts.
Of course, going to Court is the last thing that you want to do, but if the situation looks bleak, it might be the only viable option. As a grandparent there is an extra step in the process where you will have to apply for permission from the Court, before applying to the Court with the relevant forms and fee, to allow the Court to fix a first hearing date.
The Court will consider every application individually and look at a number of criteria when deciding whether to grant a grandparent permission for an application. Firstly, the Court will consider the welfare of the children, and if allowing an application to go ahead, it would cause harm or risk to a child. All in all, it is a lengthy process taking around 9 months.
If Court is the only option, we recommend that you seek the advice of a divorce lawyer or family solicitor who will help you look at all options available to you and your family members. There are other orders that you may wish to apply for such a special guardianship which are more legally secure.
If the local authority is considering applying for a care order, then grandparents can apply to be foster carers, or for special guardianship or a residence order, depending on the circumstances. There is also the possibility of adopting grandchildren too.
When it comes to family law, it is important to get the right advice, help, and support, whatever your circumstances. This ensures the best possible outcome for the immediate situation you face in addition to helping you plan properly for the future of your grandchildren.
Our team are experts in all areas of family law and have extensive experience serving clients in London. Having expertise in all areas of family law is important as issues and cases often involve considerable overlap between the various areas.
Using a family law solicitor with experience of all aspects of the law means you get informed advice from a solicitor who is looking at your case and circumstances holistically.
To make an enquiry please fill in our form, call us on 0208 343 2998 or click to contact our divorce lawyers.