During the current Lockdown, with the imposition of social distancing, the important role that grandparents play in children’s lives has been highlighted in the media. For many of us, we are looking forward to sharing with our wider family the responsibility of caring for our children once lockdown restrictions are lifted. However, there are still so many cases where children are being denied a meaningful relationship with their grandparents. This can have a detrimental effect on both children and grandparents.
Grandparents who have tried to negotiate with their adult children over this issue, sadly now are having to resort to making applications to the Court to resolve these issues. Under current English Law, as grandparents do not hold parental responsibility, this means that unfortunately they do not have an automatic right to apply to a court for a Contact Order to a child.
In order to be able to apply to the Court for a Contact Order, the grandparent firstly has to apply to the Court for permission. To obtain that permission, a grandparent must be able to show that:-
- There is an existing relationship between the grandchild and the grandparent.
- What is the impact on the child should contact be granted?
- There is a good reason for bringing the Application.
Fortunately, however, it is possible for an application for permission to be made at the same time as an application for contact. It is extremely rare that grandparents cannot overcome this hurdle, as the grandparents bringing the case are able to show that there is a meaningful relationship in existence, which, if permitted to continue, will benefit the child. Generally, the Court will hear the application for permission at the first hearing and will then go on to consider the issue of contact. In the majority of cases where a child already has a close relationship, and having regard to the child’s welfare, it is unlikely that an application for contact to a grandchild will fail.
But it is worth bearing in mind that not every case needs to go to court. Solicitor led negotiation or mediation might be a much more cost effective way of resolving matters between parents and grandparents.
Grandparents should not feel hopeless when faced with these challenges. It is important to know that help is out there.