Contact with grandparents

23 July 2018

In May, MPs debated grandchildren’s contact with grandparents. MPs called for a review of the impact of the requirement for grandparents to obtain the court’s permission before being able to apply for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO), the barrier to justice caused by the loss of legal aid and the issue of enforcement following the making of a CAO.

Proposals for a review of the law include amending the law to provide for the court to presume that a grandparent’s involvement in the child’s life will further the child’s welfare, unless the contrary is shown.

When parents separate grandparents are often overlooked in the chaos that follows a messy separation. Parents at times spend so long arguing with each other about their own arrangements for their children that the grandparents become an afterthought. All too often grandparents tell of feeling bereaved due to either a break in the contact with their grandchildren and, sometimes, not being able to see them at all due as a result of their son or daughter’s relationship breaking down.

A change in the law will be welcomed but until then the current system can be navigated to ensure children have a continuing relationship with their grandparents.

What grandparents need to be aware of:

  1. You do not have an automatic legal right to contact with your grandchildren. You first have to ask the court for permission to apply for a CAO to see your grandchildren. (Legal advice will be useful in this situation).
  2. If you can’t have direct contact with your grandchildren, there are other ways you can let them know you are there for them. Phone, cards or letters are a useful way to keep in touch. Or you can email, text or even skype them. Remember to keep it general and try not to be too emotional. They may also be missing you too and might feel guilty if they think that you are being made unhappy by not seeing them.
  3. There are approximately 14 million grandparents in the UK. You are not alone.
  4. Don’t give up hope. Sometimes, it just takes time for the dust to settle and for parents to learn how to parent apart. Once that happens and things are calmer, you may find that contact with your grandchildren will resume. Keeping in contact in other ways in the interim will help keep the door open for you and your grandchildren.

The content of this article is for general information only. For further advice, please contact a member of Birketts' Private Client Advisory Team.

This article is from the summer 2018 issue of Private Lives, our newsletter covering the key legal and tax issues that individuals face. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. Law covered as at July 2018.

To keep up-to-date with the latest news, legal updates and seminar information, please register and select the areas that are of interest to you.