Grandparents Rights and Seeing Grandchildren After Divorce
Being a grandparent is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. You get to love and care for a child, delight in watching them grow and learn, and most of all, still get a full night's sleep! Many grandparents are very involved in their grandchildren's lives, babysitting them, taking them to school and caring for them while their parents spend time together.
However, when a couple divorce, a grandparent may suddenly discover that treasured time with their grandchild comes to an abrupt end and this can be heart-breaking. Unfortunately, under UK law, there are no automatic rights for grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren , and such contact following a divorce may only be at the parents' discretion.
Options for maintaining contact
- Informal request.
Grandparents who wish to continue to spend time with grandchildren after their parents' divorce should start by discussing their wish for contact with their son or daughter, the parent of the child or children. It may be that due to the child custody arrangements that have been agreed, the secondary carer will only have their children on weekends or alternate weeks, and they may not have considered that this arrangement is inadvertently affecting the grandparents' ability to spend time with the children.
Often, an informal chat is all that is needed to gain access to the children, even if it is only at a parent's house once a week, rather than having them for sleepovers or after school, as may have been routine prior to the divorce.
Where it is impossible to gain access to grandchildren following informal requests and initial discussions, it may be advisable to seek support from a specially trained mediator who could help to negotiate a mutually acceptable arrangement that is convenient for all parties and represents the best interests of the child. This will be an opportunity to discuss the grandparents' requests for contact, in addition to any concerns about such contact that either parent may have.
- Court order.
If mediation fails to produce a satisfactory result, it will be necessary to apply for a court order. This will incur court fees and the mediator who was engaged previously will need to provide written confirmation that attempts were made to resolve the situation prior to commencing court proceedings. The court will then consider all the evidence and circumstances of the case to arrive at an outcome that is believed to be in the child's best interests.
Though there are no formal grandparents' rights to contact with grandchildren following their parents' divorce, it is often considered to be in the children's best interests for the child to retain links with their extended family and to solidify their history, and sense of belonging. As such, for contact to continue. Therefore, grandparents should not be disheartened by the challenges they may face and instead continue to pursue contact in order to maintain the relationship with their grandchildren.