We are often consulted by grandparents in relation to legal rights with their grandchildren. This may be in a situation when their grandchildren are living with them on a long-term basis or when they are seeking to spend more time with their grandchildren.
As with any family matter, it is best to try to agree on a way forward amicably and mediation is often a very useful alternative to court. If mediation is not possible or is not successful, then you may consider making applications to court.
Spending time with grandchildren
If, for whatever reason, you are not currently able to spend time with your grandchild or grandchildren we understand that this would be upsetting for you. If you are not able to agree on the time you spend with them via their parent or guardian, you can make an application to court for a formal court order setting out when you will spend time with them.
As a grandparent you would usually need to request permission from the court to make the application as a first step.
There are some exceptions to this for example if the child is living with you already, or you already have a child arrangements order or you have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility.
The court would have to consider the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration and also various other factors including:
• the nature of the proposed application and the likely merits of that application
• the connection with the child; and
• any risk that the proposed application might disrupt the child’s life to such an extent that he or she would be harmed by it
Each case is decided based on the circumstances in that particular family. The nature of your bond is a key element but there is not a presumption in favour of grandparents’ rights above any other relative.
Once permission has been granted the court would consider the application for a child arrangements order with reference to the Child’s welfare and the welfare checklist just as they would with any other application and again this will depend on your particular circumstances so it is important to seek specialist advice.
Special Guardianship Orders or Residence Orders
There may be circumstances where grandchildren go to live with their grandparents, or other family members, long term. In that situation it is important that the grandparents are able to make decisions for the benefit of the children and to have the parental responsibility that is needed to do that.
A child arrangements order for the child to live with another person (commonly or previously known as a residence order) and special guardianship order are very similar in that they would both grant you parental responsibility. The child arrangements order grants parental responsibility until the children are 16 and the Special Guardianship Order until they are 18.
With both orders the parents retain their parental responsibility but with a special guardianship order you would actually assume higher rights than the children’s parents and they would take more of a backseat in terms of decision making. This allows you to make the necessary day to day decisions for the benefit of the child or children. If the parents wanted to make any applications to court in the event of any dispute for example, then they would have to seek permission from the court before doing so.
One of the benefits with a Special Guardianship Order is that you would receive some financial support from the local authority (although this is means tested).
It is important to consider your own unique circumstances to decide which order is best for you and your family.
Contact us for support on 0161 980 9066.