Parents tend to have very different views towards grandparents. They can be perceived as being overbearing and interfering or they can be an invaluable resource or both. Problems can arise when parents separate and the relationship between one parent and the grandparents turns sour. This situation often creates a difficult situation where neither the parents nor the grandparents know where they stand and often grandparents can find themselves in a situation where they are no longer spending time with their grandchild who they previously spent regular time with. This article will endeavour to shed a little bit of light on what role grandparents can take in this situation.
Grandparents do not have any legal right to spend time with a grandchild or to have any input in their lives, that role is reserved for the child’s parents. Furthermore, just because the mother or father of your grandchild is spending time or living with the child, does not mean that this doubles as your time with your grandchild. This is not to say that there is any bar on your spending time with them during this period simply that it is at the discretion of the parent within whose care they are in and there is an expectation that the child will be spending that time with their parent.
The starting position if you are a grandparent would be to try and agree with the mother and father to your spending some independent time with your grandchild. This might not be as frequently as previously and you do need to be realistic in respect of what you are seeking. Mediation might be able to assist you with reaching an agreement with the parents in this respect.
If an agreement cannot be reached then it is open to you, as a grandparent, to make an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order whereby you would seek an order granting you time with your grandchild. The first step of this process would be for you to apply to the court for permission to make your application. This is a gatekeeping exercise where a Judge will ensure that there is merit to your application. If permission is granted then the formal court process would commence. In determining your application the court’s primary consideration will be the welfare of your grandchild and before making any orders it will need to be certain that what you are seeking is in the best interests of your grandchild. If you are successful in your application, the order will allow you to spend time with your grandchild, this could include overnights however it will not afford you any other rights in respect of your grandchild and as you do not share parental responsibility for your grandchild you do not have any legal right to be involved in decision making concerning your grandchild.
If your child, whether that be your grandchild’s mother or father, is not spending time with your grandchild themselves, for whatever reason, this does not preclude you as a grandparent from making an application to the court. However, if there are safeguarding concerns, which is the reason contact between that parent and your grandchild is not taking place, you will likely need to provide assurances that the parent in question will not be present during any time you spend with your grandchild.
Grandchildren are always important to grandparents and you do not want to miss out on precious time with them however remember that, regardless of how much you agree or disagree with the parenting style of the mother and father it is, rightly or wrongly, not for you to impose your views. It would be advisable for you to take legal advice in the first instance to ensure that you know what you are proposing is appropriate and to ensure that you know how the case might progress. You can then try to reach an agreement but if that is not possible, the court process is there for you to rely upon.