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Grandparents often play a crucial role in their grandchildren’s lives, whether this be as caregivers, teachers or playmates. In fact, grandparents are often the ‘unsung heroes’ of the story, who are a regular, consistent and reliable helping hand but also jump into action to offer help at the drop of a hat. But what legal rights do grandparents have if they are denied contact with their grandchildren?
Usually, it is assumed that grandparents will spend time with their grandchildren through agreement with the child’s parents. However, this is not always the case. Relationships can break down and as a result grandparents may find themselves on the outside, looking in and can find themselves in a situation where one parent or the other are refusing to allow them to see their grandchildren. This can mean that grandparents that had previously been playing a very active role in their grandchildren’s lives are abruptly stopped from doing so and this can be an extremely painful and difficult situation for both the grandparents themselves but also, for the children.
If this happens, you should be rest assured that there are steps that can be taken in order to reinstate or begin to have contact with your grandchildren, with the assistance of the Courts.
Whilst grandparents do not have ‘parental responsibility’, this does not stop a grandparent from applying to the Court to ask for a Court Order that enables them to spend time with their grandchildren. This just means that you need to also request permission when making the application for contact and this request is rarely refused. This request will usually be sent to the Court alongside the application for contact itself, so that this does not cause any delay
A Child Arrangements Order can specify how often and for how long you are able to spend time with your grandchildren, for example weekly or fortnightly. When the Court consider an application for a Child Arrangement Order, they will look at a number of factors, such as the needs of the children, the children’s wishes and feelings (if age appropriate to do so) and any risk of harm. Each child will be considered as an individual, as the Court recognises that all children are unique and arrangements that might be in the best interests and right for a child in one family, might not be the same for a child in another family.
If the Courts consider that it would help them in making a final decision, they can also invite a Cafcass Officer to assist. Their role is to independently advise the court about what is safe for the children and what arrangements may be in their best interests. Their role is also an opportunity for a child’s voice to be heard. It is recognised by Cafcass and the Court, that it helps with a child’s self-identity if they have an understanding of both their paternal and maternal family unit, so this is often key.
If you are experiencing difficulties in obtaining contact with your grandchildren, our team of specialist family practitioners will be able to provide you with expert advice and support on how to move forward. Contact our team of specialist lawyers on 0800 470 0335.
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