Grandparents can often feel ignored or left out when it comes to what they may consider to be their right to have a relationship with a grandchild. Grandparents do not automatically obtain parental responsibility in the way that parents do and so will not usually have the right to make decisions about important issues, such as, a child's accommodation, education or medical treatment. At law grandparents do not have any intrinsic rights or duties in relation to their grandchildren. However, the legal system does recognise that the relationship between grandparent and grandchild is an important one and Courts will promote that relationship if it is believed to be in the best interest of the child.
Where grandparents would like to have access to a grandchild or would like a grandchild to live with them; the first step will usually be to seek agreement of the parents. If agreement cannot be obtained the next step will be to speak to a solicitor and explore the possibility of mediation. If this process is unsuccessful then a court application can be considered.
Sometimes grandparents find themselves in a position where they are raising a grandchild informally. There are a number of ways this can happen, such as, a parent feeling unable to cope and asking for assistance. This type of arrangement, even if it becomes long-term, will not provide the grandparents with any additional rights or powers in relation to a child. It can be very difficult for grandparents, in these circumstances, to make decisions about things like education or medical treatment as they will usually need to obtain parental permission at every turn. It is, therefore, generally advisable for grandparents to consider formalising this type of unofficial arrangement through the Courts.
Where a Local Authority is involved with a child, grandparents will often be approached to provide temporary care and may be assessed as long-term carers. Where there is Local Authority involvement it will often be useful to seek advice from a solicitor at an early stage. It will be of assistance to have an understanding of the seriousness of the Local Authority’s concerns and what grandparents can do to help the child, parent or themselves. The involvement of grandparents at an early stage can often be pivotal to ensuring that children remain in their birth family.
Where Court action, in relation to a child, is necessary for any reason grandparents will generally need to obtain the permission of the Court to make an application. In practice, this rarely causes additional problems or delays, over and above the application process for parents, but it is an extra legal hurdle that must be overcome. The application and court process can be daunting and a lot of people will prefer to instruct a solicitor from the outset to manage it for them. Assistance from a solicitor can be particularly invaluable for grandparents seeking a relationship with a grandchild due to the extra complexities that are involved.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice. You should not rely on the information in this article. Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article. Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website. Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.