Grandparent’s rights during a relationship breakdown

Written by Steven Gasser - 10.12.20

Last year, a third of London grandparents were not allowed to spend time with their own grandchildren. That’s over a million children in the UK without access to a loved one.

With the added challenge of Covid-19 putting pressure on family relationships, this number is likely to have risen considerably. But there are things you can do – and there are professionals with the expertise to help you reunite with your grandchild.

Grandparents play a vital role in children’s lives. The love and support in the bond between a grandparent and grandchild is fundamentally different to that of a parental bond, and can be especially valuable to children when a family breakdown happens. A report last year stated that almost a quarter of grandparental estrangements occurred following a divorce. 

What should you do first?

Understandably, your first reaction might be to argue with whoever is blocking contact with your grandchild. We would advise against confrontations and heated arguments, as these can be disruptive to the child, and parents have the right to choose who their children see. This means the law does allow them to stop you seeing your grandchild.

But that doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship with your family. Legally, as a grandparent you do not have automatic rights to see your grandchildren. However, the courts are fortunately becoming more and more aware of the important bond between grandparents and grandchildren. You may have even seen ongoing campaigns to change the law with regard to grandparents’ rights to automatic parental responsibility.

What action can you take?

Unlike a parent, to get access to a child through the courts you first need to get permission to apply for a child arrangement order, which will then decide how much time the children are able to spend with you. However, it is likely that permission will be granted, and getting a judge to grant you access to your grandchild is a very viable option. A lawyer can help you do this right away.

It might also be possible to resolve contact disputes out of court. At the moment this is a good option, as mediation can be done remotely or in very small groups. You will sit down with a lawyer and the parent or parents involved and discuss what can be done to promote your grandchild’s best interests. At the end of the process, you’ll make an agreement on contact which both sides can stick to, which can sometimes be converted into a Court Order later on.

Whatever path you take, a reunion is often not only possible, but the best course of action for starting to repair family bonds. Get in touch with our team to find out your best course of action.

If you need advice on contact arrangements, or any other aspect of family law, feel free to get in touch with our Family Team on 020 3146 6300, or for friendly, professional and strictly confidential advice.