If your son or daughter is getting divorced and you are worried about having access to your grandchildren, understanding your rights and the options available to you to secure continued access can be reassuring.
Unfortunately, under current UK law, you have no automatic right to contact with your grandchildren if one or both of their parents deny you access. However, depending on the circumstances you may be able to get a court order granting you access, even if your own son or daughter is denied this. Going to court to resolve an issue like this should be a last resort and there are various other options you should consider first.
Talk to both parents
When you find out that your son or daughter is getting divorced, you should speak to them both as soon as you tactfully can about how you can maintain contact with your grandchildren. It is important to try to preserve a good relationship with both parties in the divorce, even if you feel anger towards your son or daughter’s former partner.
Having a good relationship with both parents will mean that you may be able to agree regular contact with you grandchildren without the need to take formal action. Having a harmonious relationship with both parents will also likely be in the best interests of your grandchildren, helping to give them a stable, positive environment to grow up in.
Get included in the Parenting Plan
Many divorcing couples find that a Parenting Plan is useful as a way of formally agreeing how their children will be cared for after the divorce. Although this plan is not binding, if the parents do end up going to court over the children’s care, a judge will normally expect the parents to have attempted to make a parenting plan.
As a grandparent, you can ask your son or daughter and their former spouse to include you in the parenting plan, especially if you have previously been playing a significant role in your grandchildren’s life, such as regularly collecting them from school. This will give you and your grandchildren certainty about the role you will be playing in their life going forward.
Try family mediation
If you cannot agree with both parents what level of contact you will have with your grandchildren after the divorce, you could suggest family mediation. This involves sitting down with a specially trained mediator who will help you and the parents agree a mutually acceptable solution.
When going to court is the only option
If one or both parents refuse to allow you access to your grandchildren and all other reasonable options have been tried, you may be able to apply for a Contact Order, forcing the parents to give you access.
As a grandparent, you will first need to apply for permission to make an application for a Contact Order, as you do not automatically have the right to do so. When deciding whether to give you permission to apply, the courts will consider:
- Your connection to the child or children
- What sort of contact you will be asking for
- Whether there are any reasons contact could be potentially harmful to the child or children’s wellbeing
If you are granted permission to apply, you will then need to submit an application for a Contact Order through the court. If one or both of the parents object, you may have to attend a full hearing where both parties will make their case, including providing evidence to support your arguments.
To be successful in a court hearing, you will need to demonstrate that you have a strong, on-going relationship with your grandchildren offering significant benefits to their lives.
If you do have to go to court, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced divorce solicitor as they are the type of lawyer most likely to have the specialist expertise in dealing with these kinds of situations.
Keep in mind what is best for your grandchildren
It is easy to get caught up in the emotions involved in a divorce, especially if your son or daughter is hurt and angry as a result of the situation. However, it is important to always base your decisions on what is in the best interests of your grandchildren. In most cases, children benefit significantly from having their grandparents as part of their lives and parents benefit from the extra level of support in raising their children.
If you can present your desire for contact as being in your grandchild or grandchildren’s best interests, it will generally be much easier to reach an voluntary agreement with their parents and will also give you a stronger case if you do need to take legal action.