Grandparents are sometimes put in very difficult situations, even more so when a couple breaks up and grandparents are restricted or forbidden to have contact with much loved grandchildren.
Around 42% of grandparents lose contact with grandchildren when the parents separate.
This is heart breaking for some grandparents, upsetting and confusing for grandchildren. Often nowadays grandparents are very involved in childcare, and make a very valuable contribution to the stability and security of children in unstable families.
Sometimes one parent becomes very hostile to the grandparents, blaming them for "taking sides", and refuse to allow the grandchildren to have any ongoing relationship with them.
What is the legal position? Can the court get involved?
Short answer: yes. If a dispute cannot be sorted out amicably in mediation, grandparents will need to apply to the court. The court can make a Child arrangements order (used to be called Contact, or Access) setting out how much time the child should spend with grandparents.
However, a grandparent first has to make an application to the court for "Leave" (permission) to make this application. The grandparent does not have an automatic right to make the application (unlike a father)- the court has to decide if the application should be made in the circumstances. Some grandparents have questionable reasons for wanting to make this application, so the court can filter out applications that are not appropriate or in the best interests of the child.
Once this hurdle is overcome, the grandparent can apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order setting out if and when they are to see the child, or have (for example) telephone or email or Facetime contact with the grandchild. This will usually be an application to the Magistrates, and can take many months to finalise. Sometimes parents and grandparents can agree a reasonable solution without having to ask the court to make a decision, and can agree the terms of an order. The court encourages all parties to think of a reasonable compromise, if there are no safeguarding issues, to ensure that they can resolve the arrangements as constructively and positively as possible. The Court is aware of the contribution grandparents can make to the welfare of grandchildren and will try to make an order that is in the best interests of the children.
What are the legal costs? Sadly, there is almost certainly no legal aid available, so either grandparents need to fund legal expenses for representation via solicitors, or a direct access barrister, or they need to issue the application themselves. Or they can mix the two options and issue the application but obtain support from solicitors or barristers for the rest of the proceedings.
The court issue fee (unless grandparents are on a very low income) costs £215.00. Solicitors should give an estimate at the start of the case, but the estimate will be a general estimate based upon the expected work to be carried out. Sometimes cases last a long time, other times they are finalised very quickly by agreement. If you are considering this route, make an appointment with a solicitor on an initial basis so that they can discuss the issues involved and work out an estimate of fees. However, on a rough guide, if a case goes all the way through to a final hearing, with a Cafcass report, and at least 2 short hearings before the final hearing, you can expect legal costs to be not less than £5,000.00, and sometimes more.
How We Help
When you need to regularly see your grandchildren call Victoria on 01274 449910 for caring advice and to arrange an initial consultation appointment.