Protecting the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren

When a relationship breaks down, it is not just parents who can face difficulties in agreeing arrangements to be able to see the children.

Grandparents can often find themselves in a similar position in relation to their grandchildren. In the current world, when both parents work, and many families rely on the support of grandparents, a break-up may mean that the children are separated from one parent, but also from their grandparents, who may have been a constant figure in their lives.

Grandparents have an extremely important role in children’s lives, and it is important that their relationship with their grandchildren is maintained even after the separation for the parents. After all, parents, grandparents and ultimately the court, must ensure all decisions are made for the benefit of the children and their wellbeing. Although this is broadly accepted and recognised by the family courts, grandparents do not have an automatic right to spend time with their grandchildren if a parent chose to stop them from doing so.

In the same way that informal discussions and mediation are encouraged between parents when there is an issue as to the arrangements for the children following a separation, grandparents must try to do the same before considering making an application to the court.

If an agreement cannot be reached in mediation, grandparents have the option to make an application to the court for a child arrangements order. That benefit is however not automatic, and they will first of all need to seek permission from the court to make that application for a child arrangements order. In order to do so, they will need to file with the court a C2 application for permission to apply for a child arrangements order, together with a C100 application for a child arrangements order.

Before grandparents can issue their applications, they will need demonstrate that they have attempted mediation with the parents and if this is not successful, they are required to obtain a MIAM certificate (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) that will be produced by a qualified mediator.

Grandparents’ applications for child arrangements are made under the Children Act 1989, and so the court’s paramount concern will be the best interest of the children subject to the said application. In most cases, the court will be of the view that it is in the children’s best interests to have a relationship with their grandparents. In most cases therefore, permission will be given to grandparents.

This application must be served on everyone with parental responsibility in respect of the children. Before the hearing to decide whether permission is given, Cafcass will prepare a safeguarding letter to the court setting out whether there are any safeguarding concerns in respect of the parents or the grandparents.

At the first directions hearing, the court will decide whether permission should be given if the parents do not agree to the same. Once permission has been granted by the court, the court will then consider the main application for child arrangements.

Usually, the court will direct Cafcass (Children and Family Advisory and Support Service) to prepare a welfare report so recommendations can be made as to what arrangements there should be for the children to maintain a relationship with their grandparents. In order for that report to be prepared, the Cafcass Officer will interview the parents, the grandparents, and depending on the age of the children, the children.

With the benefit of the Cafcass report and applying the welfare checklist, the court will make a determination as to the amount of time children should spend with their grandparents.

Written by: Amy Barnard (Paralegal)

If you require assistance in relation to being able to spend time with your grandchildren, please do not hesitate to contact the family team at Judge & Priestley on 020 8290 0333.

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