The courts recognise grandparents’ role in the family and the contribution they make as an essential part of a child’s life.
If there is a marital breakup and a grandparent would like regular contact with the grandchildren then initially many parents will respond amicably to an informal approach.
But if this fails family mediation is an effective way in which to resolve contact issues and reduce legal costs. The problem is that it is not compulsory and both sides must agree to mediation for it to take place.
Whilst grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren, the courts do grant grandparents contact unless there is evidence of abuse or violence.
Only people with parental responsibility [parents, step-parents, guardian or a person with whom the child has lived for 3 years] can make an application for a Contact Order.
Grandparents can, however, apply for permission to apply for a Contact Order and the courts will consider factors like the connection with the child, the nature of the application for contact & whether the contact might be potentially harmful to the child.
If objection to the application is made then there will usually be a hearing. The court will consider all the child’s circumstances and only make an order where it is better for the child than making no order.
Grandparents when applying for Contact Orders which will need to stipulate the arrangements including direct and indirect forms of communication such as visiting rights, letters, text, email, Skype, telephone calls etc.
The Order requires that the person with whom the child resides allows the child to stay or visit with the person named in the order.
You may not know that “Custody” doesn’t exist anymore it is now called a ‘Residence Order’.
Or that grandparents can obtain Parental Responsibility for grandchildren by obtaining a Residence Order where grandchildren have been living with them for three years.
If they have not been living there for three years, permission to apply is required. If successful a Residency Order gives shared Parental Responsibility for the child until he or she is 16.
Grandparents can also apply for Special Guardianship Orders which parents cannot discharge without permission of the court.
Adoption is considered by some but is usually a last resort after the above remedies.
All of these matters are of considerable importance and need an experienced team to assist.