Unfortunately due to family arguments and parents who may want to cut off contact with former partners and family members, or indeed when the local authority becomes involved, grandchildren can often lose contact with their grandparents.
It is important for children to know their grandparents to learn about themselves and their family background. Suddenly losing contact with grandparents can cause distress to the children involved. In such circumstances all efforts should be made to negotiate with the parents or local authority with the welfare of the child being the paramount consideration.
As a last resort, if negotiations fail, grandparents should be aware that they can in some circumstances make an application to Court.
In the majority of cases grandparents will need to obtain permission from the Court before they can make an application to have contact with their grandchildren. As the law stands at the moment there is no presumption in favour of grandparents obtaining permission. When deciding whether or not to grant permission the following factors will be considered:
- The nature of the application. The Court will need to consider whether the motivation behind the application is in the child’s best interests.
- The grandparent’s connection with the child.
- Any risk that there might be of the application disrupting a child’s life to such an extent that the child would be harmed. With this in mind the Court need to consider the level of disharmony between the grandparents and the child’s parents.
- If the child is being looked after by a Local Authority the Local Authority’s plans for the child’s future and the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents.
If permission is granted then whether or not the application to have contact with the child is successful will depend on the following:
A. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding).
B. The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
C. The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances.
D. The child’s age, sex and background and other relevant characteristics.
E. Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
F. How capable the grandparents in question are of meeting the child’s needs.
If you are a grandparent and would like further advice in relation to your involvement in your grandchild's life contact our family law team.