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Rights of Grandparents

Posted: 09-10-2020

With the rising costs of child care, almost two thirds of all grandparents now provide regular child care for their grandchildren.  This means that many grandparents are greatly affected when their children’s relationships break down. Research has shown that 42% of grandparents lose contact with a grandchild upon the parents’ separation. This is especially the case for contact with a son’s children (as let’s face it there is still a general presumption that the children should reside with their mother).


Grandparents usually have no automatic right to make an application under the Children Act 1989 regarding their grandchildren. Instead they have to first of all apply to the Court for permission to make an application. Only once this is granted can they then make an application for a Child Arrangements Order under the Act. This can be an application for an order to deal with:


  1. Who the child should live with (residence)
  2. How much time the child should spend with someone (contact).


Often, any application for contact with children should be usually be made by a parent (who has an automatic right to apply under the Act). However, it is up to the parent to ensure that a child has adequate contact with their grandparents and other family members during the time they have contact with the children. This can put a lot of pressure onto those contact times. This means that grandparents who were once caring for children several days a week can all of a sudden only see their grandchildren once or twice a month if they are lucky.


This situation has been considered by several governments, most recently in 2011. However, to date, no change in the law has been recommended. Therefore, at present it still remains the case that grandparents often lose contact with their grandchildren as they have no automatic legal right to make an application under the Children Act 1989.


Therefore, at Sousa Law, we give grandparents the following advice:

  1. Try to resolve issues within the family.
  2. Try to remain on good terms with both parents, if at all possible.
  3. Try to reach an informal, family-based agreement with both parents.
  4. Use technology. FaceTime and other video chatting apps have made contact a lot less formal and easier to organise between grandparents and children (obviously this is a lot easier with older grandchildren).
  5. Consider attending family mediation to try to resolve issues. Sousa Law offers family mediation
  6. Consider making a Court Application. Be aware that any application to Court can be costly, both financially and emotionally. It will also take time, typically 2 – 6 months. Legal aid is not available for grandparents (unless the local authority is involved in care proceedings).


When considering an application from a Grandparent, the Court has to consider the Welfare Checklist (Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989). The welfare of the child is always the Court’s priority. The Court will not usually want to change existing child arrangements to keep stability and structure in the child’s life. Therefore, it is likely that Grandparents will be successful in some applications, based on the welfare of the child.


Further support can be obtained from the charity Grandparents Plus.


Sousa Law offer Online Mediation services to help resolve any family issues. We also offer advice and help with making an application to Court under the Children Act 1989. If you are interested in booking an appointment, please email us at, or call us on 02380 713060.


By Nicole Biggs