It is recognised by the Courts in England and Wales that Grandparents play a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren and that this can be at risk when families separate.
Unfortunately, under the laws of England and Wales, Grandparents do not have automatic rights to spend time with their grandchildren and unless an agreement can be reached with all parties’ who have parental responsibility for the children, it will be necessary for an application to be made to the Court to resolve matters.
Where an agreement can be reached as to the arrangements for your grandchildren, the court adopts what is referred to as the ‘no order’ principle, i.e. the Court will not allow applications to be made to record agreements made between you. The court will only intervene where there is a breakdown in the agreement.
If you are unable to reach an agreement directly or with the assistance of a solicitor through correspondence, then you will need to give consideration to making an application to the Court to resolve matters.
The first step is to attend mediation which is a process whereby you are assisted by an independent third party (the mediator) to discuss the issues that have arisen and to try and reach a resolution which is satisfactory to all involved. Mediation can really assist parties in talking and remaining focused on what really matters to you and your family. In any event, mediation is a prerequisite prior to any Court application being made.
If matters are unable to be resolved via the mediation process, then it will be necessary for an application to be made to the Court for an order setting out the time that you are to spend with your grandchildren. This is a two-stage process as grandparents do not automatically have rights to bring an application to the Court.
The first stage is an application to the Court for permission to bring an application before the Court in respect of the arrangements for your grandchildren. The Court will consider the merits of your application and then determine whether to grant permission.
Once permission has been granted by the Court, it is then open to you to make a formal application to resolve the arrangements for your grandchildren and the time that they are to spend with you.
The Court takes many factors into account; however the following four principles are given the highest priority:
- The children’s welfare is of the paramount importance – the welfare checklist is set out at Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989.
- Any delay in sorting out the arrangements for the children is likely to prejudice the welfare of the children.
- The Court shall not make an Order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the children than making no Order at all. This is the no order principle. The Court will not make an order if the parents can agree things between themselves.
- It is presumed, unless the contrary is shown, that involvement of both parents in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare.
You may wish to obtain some advice about arrangements for your grandchildren and we have family law specialists available who can provide legal advice and dispute resolution services, including family mediation and collaborative law. If you would wish to speak with one of our Family Law Specialists, please do contact our friendly team.