Amongst the turmoil of separating and divorcing parents, children almost always must become accustomed to dramatically changing circumstances. They often have to move to a new home, start a new school, get used to the absence of one of their parents from their usual routine – it can be grim and destabalising. Whilst the tectonic plates of their lives are shifting (sometimes at earthquake speed), it is not difficult to see the merit of support from their extended family; particularly grandparents. From time to time, grandparents are wrongly excluded from a child’s life as part of collateral damage following a parental separation or divorce. Once every avenue of negotiation and mediation are exhausted, occasionally these children need the help of the court to retain their relationship with their grandparents.
Together with the vast responsibilities of parenthood, parents have the automatic right to ask the court to intervene in a dispute regarding their children. Grandparents do not have this right and instead have to ask the court’s permission to make an application to see their grandchild when things go wrong. The government has reported that in each of the last three years there has been an average of 2,495 applications by grandparents for the chance to see their grandchildren. Most of these will be because of a parental separation or divorce.
Once grandparents are granted permission to apply, the court will apply the following test:
When a court determines any question with respect to the upbringing of a child… the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.
Providing the grandparent’s application is made in good faith and for the right reasons, it seems obvious that it will be in the child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with their grandparent. Although making an application at court is a stressful and expensive option, at times grandparents will have no choice but to ask for help. Depending on the child’s age by making an application at court the grandparent will also provide the child with an opportunity to be heard because the court will almost always seek their wishes and feelings before making any decision. Sometimes this has the effect of unlocking the parental acrimony and re-focusing on what is important; the wellbeing of the child.
If you would like any further information or assistance in this or any other family law matter, contact Randal Buckley on 020 8899 6620 or by email on email@example.com