The breakdown of a relationship is understandably a difficult and distressing time, especially where there are children to consider. Divorces involving children can be both highly emotive and complex, particularly in cases where the parties separate on acrimonious terms. In some cases ill feeling towards a former partner can extend towards their wider family, placing grandparents in a somewhat helpless situation.
Grandparents have no automatic legal rights in relation to contact with their grandchild. This can often cause grandparents to feel a sense of powerlessness as they miss priceless moments in their grandchild’s life. However all is not lost, as grandparents can, in appropriate circumstances, apply for a court order under section 8 of the Children’s act 1989.
As with all family law cases, grandparents are encouraged to seek alternatives ways to resolve any dispute, leaving court intervention as a last resort. Mediation is a method that is encouraged by the courts with those wishing to pursue legal action required, unless an exemption applies, to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before proceedings are formally started.
Where an application to court is necessary, then grandparents have an additional hurdle. A grandparent needs the leave (permission) of the court to make the application for a Child Arrangements Order to see their grandchildren. It is, of course, seen as important for children to maintain a relationship with both parents but also the extended wider family to include grandparents. In most cases that occurs during the time a parent spends with their child. Consequently, for a grandparent to be allowed to bring an application usually means there has to be justification why visits to a grandparent should be considered separately from visits to a parent. This could, for example, be where the parent does not see the child for whatever reason.
Sadly in some cases, a child’s needs can get lost in a battle between warring parents. As difficult as it may be when raw emotions are running high following separation, it is vital the best interests of the child drives the decision making process when considering arrangements. Creating a stable home life where relationships with both parents are encouraged is crucial to a child’s emotional and psychological development. Grandparents are an essential part of this familial support structure.
If you require advice or assistance regarding a child arrangements order please don’t hesitate to contact our specialist family law team on 0845 050 1958. Alternatively please complete an online enquiry form.