We are members of the Grandparents' Association and support their aims.
Grandparents – their rights
It is sadly often the case that when the parents of children separate, the children of the relationship can lose touch with their paternal or maternal grandparents, sometimes for long periods. This causes distress to the grandchildren, and to the grandparents.
Historically, the rights of grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren have not featured significantly in Children Act case law. It is now becoming more common for grandparents to bring applications for contact with their grandchildren, and even more common for grandparents to seek Residence Orders or Special Guardianship Orders for grandchildren.
In a recent case, the Supreme Court decided that a grandmother, who already had a Residence Order in respect of her grandchild, would keep the child living with her, even though both parents individually sought Residence Orders. The child’s welfare was the most important factor, and it was in the child’s best interests to stay with the grandmother, rather than live with one or other of the biological parents.
Grandparents who cannot see their grandchildren due to intervention by one or other of the parents, do have a right of redress under the Children Act. An application must be made to a County Court for permission (leave) to issue proceedings seeking contact with the grandchildren. If the Court’s leave is given, the grandparents can file an application seeking a Contact Order. The application will be considered by a District Judge, who will decide the case based upon principles set out in the Children Act.
In the unlikely event that the grandparents already have parental responsibly for the grandchildren an application for a Contact Order can be made without leave of the Court.
Since the advent of the Data Protection Act, rights of access to information about individuals (and children in particular), are restricted. Parents with parental responsibility can register their children with a GP, and make decisions about the child’s medical treatment. If grandchildren reside with grandparents under informal arrangements made with the consent of one or both parents, the grandparents may need to take the child to a GP, or have contact with the child’s school. Without parental responsibility, grandparents are prevented from undertaking many of the normal day to day functions which a parent can legally undertake. Acquiring parental responsibility in these circumstances might not be straight-forward.
If grandchildren live with grandparents permanently, it may be advisable for an application to be made for a Residence Order. Acquiring a Residence Order will also confer parental responsibility upon the grandparent or grandparents.
Several people may have parental responsibility for a child. This can include parents and/or step- parents. Each person may wish to exercise parental responsibility in a different way. A Special Guardianship Order can confer upon a grandparent or grandparents, a legal right to exercise parental responsibility for their grandchild, to the exclusion of the other persons with parental responsibility.
It is advisable in all of these cases to seek legal advice because this area of law is not entirely straight- forward and each case is judged upon its own particular merits.
The Grandparent’s Association produces a number of leaflets and other publications that give detailed information about many of the issues on this page.