In the media we often hear talk of grandparents rights in relation to their grandchildren. So what are their rights?
Sadly if a grandparent is stopped from being able to see their grandchild, they do not have the automatic right to make an application to the Court or to see their grandchildren. So what can they do?
Any grandparent seeking an order in relation to their grandchild needs to get permission from the parents or all people with parental responsibility or they will need permission from the court before consideration will be given to the request. The law says that in deciding whether permission should be granted the Court must have particular regard to:
- The nature of the proposed application for a section 8 order;
- The applicant’s connection with the child;
- Any risk there might be of that proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that he would be harmed by it.
So what does it mean in practical terms?
The nature of the proposed application for a section 8 order
There are different types of orders you can apply for under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. The most common is the Child Arrangements Order which is essentially an order that considers where a child should live or how often they should spend time with someone. You can also apply for a Prohibited Steps Order (an order that stops a particular act such as removing a child from a particular school or location) or a Specific Issue Order (an order asking the court to consider a particular issue such as which school a child should attend or an issue over the child’s name). The Courts are likely to be more concerned about applications for Prohibited Steps Orders and Specific Issue Orders than Child Arrangements Orders.
The applicant’s connection with the child
The court will want to consider how you are connected to the child as anyone, not just grandparents, can apply for permission. The closer the connection to the child, the more successful the application for permission is likely to be.
Any risk there might be of that proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that he would be harmed by it.
Risk in the context of applications concerning children is wide ranging. This can include emotional harm as well as physical harm. The wider family context would have to be considered as this could negatively affect the child.
Often the first hearing will be to see if the parents agree to the grandparents making their application. If this is not agreed it may be necessary to have a longer hearing for the Court to decide whether the permission should be granted. If permission is not granted then the matter will go no further. If permission is granted then the Court will go on to look at what, if any, contact should take place between the grandparent and grandchild.
So although we are often told about grandparents rights this concept does not really exist in English law. It is advisable to speak to a solicitor if you are experiencing difficulties in seeing your grandchild.