Many grandparents are stopped from seeing their grandchildren for a whole range of reasons ranging from divorce to death in the family, to an argument within the family. With grandparents often playing a substantial role in the upbringing of children, the impact upon a child of being unable to see them can be huge. The number of estranged grandparents is on the rise and many are turning to the law to grant them rights to see their grandchildren.
What Can Be Done?
If mediation or other out-of-court steps have been undertaken and have had no success, grandparents will need to apply to a court for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO). Grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren, and they cannot gain parental responsibility by applying for a Parental Responsibility Order.
The grandparent will first have to apply to the court for “leave” (permission) to make their application for a CAO. The court will decide whether the application should be made, looking at a number of factors, including:
The court will not allow applications to be made if they are made for questionable reasons or are likely to be harmful to the best interests of the child.
Once leave is granted to make an application, the court will decide whether to grant the grandparents a CAO. The CAO will state what time the child should spend with the grandparents – effectively what contact will be allowed between the child and their grandparents. The Order can specify the duration, location and frequency of contact, as well as whether the contact needs to be supervised. It may even state that the child and grandparents must have telephone or Facetime contact. Sometimes, it will provide for indirect contact, meaning that the grandparents can send letters to their grandchild.
The application is made to the Magistrates and can take months to finalise. The court will always prioritise the best interests of the child when making its Order.
What Are the Costs?
Unfortunately, legal aid is limited in this area. The fee to apply for the Court Order is £215, but if the case goes to a final hearing, costs are likely to be high due to the costs of legal advice and support.
If you are having issues with contact with a child or custody arrangements, Stella Maris Solicitors LLP can help. Contact us on 01793 296118 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.