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Fighting for your rights as a grandparent: what you need to know

Published on 7 December 2021 | Modified on 16 January 2023

Written by Lana Jones

Divorce & Family

Sadly, agreeing ‘visitation rights’ for a child during separation or divorce doesn’t solely involve the child’s parents. Grandparents are often caught in a tricky situation where they want to see their grandchildren but aren’t sure of their options from a legal perspective if their access to grandchildren has been restricted.

So, what are your rights as a grandparent? We take a look below at where you stand from a legal perspective, and the options open to you.

Do grandparents have automatic rights?

Unfortunately, grandparents are not legally entitled to see their grandchildren if a parent stops them. However, there are several avenues you can choose to follow when seeking access…

Your legal options if you aren’t able to see your grandchildren

One of the main things to note is that grandparents are still able to agree arrangements even if the child’s parents have themselves been unable to agree their own arrangements. But, if you have been stopped from seeing your grandchildren, here are your options:

An informal family-based agreement

First and foremost, the ideal scenario is to communicate effectively with both parents in an attempt to come to a resolution.


Should an informal chat not go to plan the next step will be to attend mediation. A mediator will organise an MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting). Their purpose is to provide a neutral environment to discuss any issues, with the mediator there to try and achieve an agreement that suits all parties involved. Attending an MIAM is a must prior to applying to a court, unless domestic violence is involved.

Court proceedings

If an MIAM has failed to find resolution, an application to court may be necessary.

Grandparents will first need permission from the court to make an application to spend time with their grandchildren, or to enjoy indirect contact, such as telephone and video calls, or sending cards and gifts. If permission is granted the court will consider whether it is in the children’s best interests to have contact with their grandparents, and what the level of contact should be.

If the grandchildren have lived with the grandparents for a sufficient period of time prior to the application being made, permission will not be required.

If there are court proceedings already underway involving the parents, often it will be better to wait until the arrangements are established between the parents. Grandparents will then typically spend time with the grandchildren during the children’s time with the respective parent.

In some cases grandparents may seek to make an application in their own right to be joined to the current proceedings, particularly if the grandparents no longer have a relationship with either the mother or the father. Or, in cases where there are concerns that neither parent can adequately care for the children and the Local Authority are involved, grandparents may put themselves forward to care for the children.

If you are concerned about visitation for your grandchildren and would like support from family law specialists, contact the team at Poole Alcock today.

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