Grandparents legal rights

01 May 2013

Grandparents often provide support and childcare for their grandchildren, particularly in situations where both parents are working.  For many children their grandparents house is like a second home to them. 

The consequences of a divorce or separation upon grandparents can be great.  In many cases grandparents can lose contact with their grandchildren or become subtly excluded from their lives.  If the parents themselves are engaged in acrimonious proceedings as to where the child should live and the contact between them, one or both sets of grandparents may feel concerned and stressed that they may also be affected. 

At present, grandparents must first get leave of the court to bring any application in relation to their grandchildren, except in certain precise scenarios.  Leave will usually be granted if the grandparents can show a genuine interest and commitment to the child concerned.   

Once leave to apply is obtained, there is no presumption that an order should be granted.  The Court's approach will always be to take into account what is in the best interests of the child to include their wishes and feelings, if appropriate depending on the age of the child.

In general Court should be seen as a last resort.  Except in emergency situations all parties wishing to commence a Court application in relation to children must first attend an initial mediation assessment meeting to find out more about the mediation process and to see whether it is suitable.  Accordingly mediation is not only an option for parents, and grandparents may also find that their early involvement can assist in ensuring that their relationship with the child does not get left behind.  In addition, contact with a solicitor to try and create a dialogue for negotiation at an early stage can sometimes also assist with avoiding an acrimonious dispute.