Grandparents’ Rights – What happens if they are denied access?
There are two common reasons for grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren; either a fall out between the grandparents and their own son or daughter, or where there is a family breakdown and the children live with their mum or dad, who isn’t the son or daughter of the grandparents.
Negotiate and Mediate
The first thing to say is that in most cases where contact is being denied, with some careful negotiation, with cool heads, an agreement can often be reached that allows contact to take place.
This is the very best way to preserve a long term relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren, despite the potentially difficult relationship with the parents or between the parents.
The Legal Bit
However, if an agreement can’t be reached grandparents have relatively few options.
The first thing to note is that grandparents don’t have an automatic right to apply to the court for contact because they don’t have something called ‘Parental Responsibility’, or PR for short.
What grandparents can do however is apply to the court for ‘leave’ (which simply means permission) to apply for a contact order. So an extra hurdle but not an insurmountable one.
The court will then consider lots of different factors but these can be put into three broad questions:
- What sort of relationship is there/has there been between grandparents and grandchild?
- What type of contact is being asked for?
- What effect contact may have on the child?
What is CAFCASS?
Sometimes a CAFCASS officer (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) will be appointed to help the court look at any welfare issues or to help answer the three questions set out above.
Grandparents are often understandable reticent about opening up to a stranger, but time and again enthusiastic engagement with CAFCASS is often the first step in establishing strong evidence in support of a grandparents’ contact application.
The courts are becoming more amenable to applications made by grandparents, recognising that having a wide family support network is often in the best interests of the child.
Therefore, if the preferred option of gentle negotiation is unsuccessful, approaching the courts is a viable, realistic option. If you would like to discuss this issue further then contact the family team at Cooke Painter.