When a relationship comes to an end, whether parents are married or not, it is sometimes the case that disagreements happen in relation to the children and how their time should be divided between their parents. It is however, often the case that the impact on the wider family can invariably take a back seat until the arrangements are sorted out between a child’s parents. Grandparents can be in a position where it becomes much more difficult for them to spend time with grandchildren they were used to seeing on a regular basis prior to the divorce / separation between the children’s parents.If there is a hostile situation between parents, this can sometimes spill over into other family relationships.
Hopefully through discussion, whether that is directly between the adults concerned, or with the help of a process such as mediation, an agreement can be reached. Ultimately, the wellbeing of the children is what all family members would want to focus on and communication of this will be a key factor in resolving matters.
If there cannot be an agreement reached as to the time a grandparent spends with a grandchild in discussions with the child’s parents or dispute resolution/mediation, there can be help on hand via an application to the Family Court if necessary. Grandparents do not have an automatic right to ask the court to make orders that they spend time with their grandchildren, but they can ask the court to give them permission to make an application to the court for that to be something they wish to be granted.
It is rare for a grandparent not to be given permission to make such an application. There would have to be a compelling reason for permission to be refused. Most often permission is granted to grandparents to be able to ask the court to allow them to make an application in itself.
If permission is granted and an application made, the court will then consider the connection to the child, the level of time being requested, and how that impacts on the child and the child’s parents/wider family. The court will need to be convinced that it is in a child’s best interests for an order to be made rather than not. Although it is very much case by case dependent, there is a general perception that unless there is good reason for it not to be the case, it is in a child’s best interests to see and have a meaningful relationship with their grandparents, and that this can be beneficial to their overall wellbeing, but it is always the case that the balance with all other factors to be considered when looking at what is in a child’s best interest will be the focus. The court will normally consider the ‘welfare checklist’, and depending on the age of the children, will consider a child’s wishes and feelings as part of that.
In a lot of cases, these issues are entirely resolvable without the need for court intervention, and an amicable and conciliatory approach is always the preferable way forward in relation to matters concerning children and arrangements to be made for them, but if having tried all of the other approaches, the problems are not resolved, there is the above recourse to the court available.
If you are a grandparent and want to know your rights or how to gain access to grandchildren, contact us to speak with one of our specialist family law solicitors today.
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