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Can I see my grandchildren after a relationship has broken down?

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The law could soon change giving grandparents, aunts and uncles the opportunity to have a relationship with their grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

There is parliamentary cross party support for an amendment to be made to the current Children Act (1989), which aims to strengthen children’s rights to have a relationship with close members of their extended family.

The issue was debated in the House of Commons last week. MP Nigel Huddleston commented that “Divorce and family breakdown can take an emotional toll on all involved, but the family dynamic that is all too often overlooked is that between grandparents and their grandchildren. When access to grandchildren is blocked, some grandparents call it a kind of living bereavement.”

Before considering making an application to the Family Court to spend time with their grandchild, a grandparent must refer the matter to mediation to see whether matters can be resolved without the Court’s intervention.  If mediation is unsuccessful, the grandparent may then apply to Court for permission to make an application. This is because grandparents do not have an automatic right to see a young family member, due to the fact they do not have Parental Responsibility. 

When considering a grandparent’s application for permission to apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order to spend time with a grandchild the Court will take into account:-

  • What relationship the person has with the child.
  • The nature of the application for contact.
  • Whether the person seeking permission may be harmful to child’s wellbeing in anyway.

If a grandparent is successful in obtaining permission to make an application they may then apply for a Child Arrangements Order to spend time with their grandchild, incurring a fee of £215.00. In reality, the application for permission to make an application and the application for a Child Arrangements Order is all made at the same time.  If one or both of the parents  or any other person with Parental Responsibility for the child, raises objections, the person making the application is likely to have to attend further Court Hearings. The Court will always consider all of the child’s circumstances before making any Orders and will only make Orders that are considered to be in the best interests of the child. This is why it is essential to seek good legal advice before you make an application. 

MP’s hope that the rights of a child to have a relationship with their grandparents will be enshrined within Law.

A spokesperson, for the Ministry of Justice, said “The welfare of a child is the primary consideration of the Family Courts and steps are taken wherever possible to reduce the impact of family conflict on children when a relationship ends. We will consider any proposals for helping children maintain involvement with grandparents, together with other reforms to the Family Justice System, which are currently being looked at.”

Here at Emery Johnson Astills, our focus is on client care, ensuring that we assist and support every client from initial advice through to Court proceedings, if appropriate. If you require expert legal assistance relating to family matters contact a member of our Family Team, either by phoning 0116 255 4855, or by emailing familyteam@johnsonastills.com.