It can be difficult for grandparents who, often due to a family breakdown, go from a position of spending regular time with their grandchildren, and even providing a regular caregiving role, to barely seeing their grandchildren if at all.
It is often thought that if grandparents are unable to agree on arrangements for contact directly with the parents that they have no legal recourse. This is not true. Of course, the first course of action should be to try to settle a dispute privately. If this is unsuccessful, grandparents are able to make an application to Court for an Order regarding contact.
Before an application can be made to Court, any grandparent seeking contact must have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (unless an exemption applies). The parents will also be invited to attend. If an agreement cannot be reached in mediation, or the mediator assesses that mediation is not appropriate in the circumstances, or if the parents do not attend, the next step is to make an application to the Court.
Grandparents do not have automatic permission to make an application for a Child Arrangements Order setting out the contact they are to have with their grandchildren. They must first make an application for the Court’s permission to make such an application. In practice, the application for permission and the application for the Child Arrangements Order can be made at the same time. A Court fee of £215 is payable when sending the application to the Court.
The application will be served upon the parents and the matter will be listed for a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. Cafcass will be involved prior to the first hearing in order to commence their safeguarding checks and provide any recommendations to the Court.
The Court’s paramount consideration during the entirety of proceedings and particularly when deciding whether to make an Order and if so what order, will be the best interests of the children.
The Child Law team at Langleys have the necessary expertise to represent grandparents seeking an Order to spend time with their children and also parents who are Respondents to such applications.