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The grandparent trap

View profile for Gemma Kelsey
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When relationships and marriages sadly breakdown, there is often such a focus on organising where the children are going to live and how much they will see the other parent, that grandparents can quite often get forgotten or overlooked. 

Particularly in difficult separations, grandparents who once may have shared a close relationship with their grandchildren can often get side-lined. I am often asked by grandparents what they can do if anything to see their grandchildren.

It is possible for grandparents to apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order setting out the time that that the grandchildren should spend with them. This used to be called a Contact Order.  The Court appreciates that children generally benefit from having a relationship with grandparents and views such relationships positively. 

As a grandparent, it is not possible to launch straight into an application for a Child Arrangements Order it is first necessary to apply to the Court for permission (also called Leave). When deciding whether to allow permission for a grandparent to apply, the Court has to consider whether the overall application for contact has any real prospects of success. 

If you are a grandparent seeking contact with a grandchild, the first step is to attend mediation with your grandchild’s parents and see whether an agreement can be reached.

Mediation is often a better and cost effective way of trying to reach an agreement and working out the best arrangements for everyone, in particular the children. When marriages or relationships break down, emotions can often be high and Court litigation can often make a tense situation even more strained. The Court expects parties to mediate before making an application to the Court. 

If you are a grandparent who is looking for some advice regarding contact with your grandchildren, please feel free to contact one of our family experts.