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What rights do grandparents have to have access to their grandchildren?

Posted on 7th April, 2017

Quite often, grandparents are denied the right to have access to their grandchildren and the question constantly arises, what are their rights? The unfair truth is that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren. However, it is becoming increasingly more common in courts to recognise the invaluable role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildren’s lives.

In many cases grandparents step up to be the main carer for children when their natural parents are unable to do so.

Only people with parental responsibility, for example parents, step-parents or guardians can make an application for a Contact Order. Whilst grandparents rights are limited they can, however, apply for permission (leave) to apply for a Contact Order and the courts will consider the following:

  • The applicant’s connection with the child.
  • The nature of the application for contact.
  • Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way.

If the application is successful, they can then apply for a Contact Order through the court to gain access to their grandchildren.

It has long been acknowledged that grandparents have an important role to play in the upbringing of children.  Re W (Contact: Application by Grandparent) [1997] 1 FLR 793 in particular stressed the importance of the grandparents role in a child’s life.

Research published by Families Need Fathers, the Grandparents Association and the Family Matters Institute indicates that 42% of grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren when their parents separate. The potential therefore for grandparents to become involved in proceedings for contact and other s8 orders is significant. This can be seen in Re C (art 8 Order: grandparent’s application for leave) [2003]. The more recent decision of the Supreme Court in Re B (A Child) [2009] UKSC 5 also recognises this and has questioned the presumption of the natural parent being the main carer.

Grandparents have had increasing recognition in terms of the role that they may play in the upbringing of a child and this is the correct approach when decided what is in the child’s best interest. The Family team at Jacksons recognise the need for grandparents to see their grandchildren.  If you require any advice on this topic, please do not hesitate to call Louisa Bestford on 0191 2069617 or Emma Canham on 0191 2069621.  Alternatively, email Louisa at lbestford@jacksons-law.com/Emma at ecanham@jacksons-law.com.

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