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The post-divorce rights of a grandparent

View profile for Louise Jones
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For many children, grandparents play an integral role in family life.

From holidays, birthdays and weekend visits to the care they provide when parents are at work, loving grandparents can be a huge asset to any family.

However, when the relationship between the mother and father breaks down and divorce divides the family, many grandparents sadly lose touch with their grandchildren. In fact, according to the Grandparents Association, one million children on average are distanced from their grandparents each year as a result of parental separation or divorce. Though this may not be a parent’s primary concern during negotiations, the support of a grandparent can be extremely helpful for a child during this difficult time.

The effects of divorce on children are well known: some may find it harder than others, but ultimately, a child will have to learn to readjust to such a significant change to their family life. As a grandparent, it’s tough to watch your child go through separation, even when it’s for the best. Even more so, is losing the bond you had with their children for reasons that are out of your control.

In most cases, it is the grandparents on the secondary caregiver’s side who are most affected, with the other set of grandparents adopting the role of the child’s ‘main grandparents.’ This sudden loss of contact can be deeply upsetting for both you and the children, especially where a strong bond was formed between you, independent of the mother and father. However, if your child’s separation was not amicable, it can be difficult to know where you stand and what rights you have in visiting your grandchild.

So, what rights do I have as a grandparent?

Unfortunately, only people with legal Parental Rights will have automatic access to the child, which usually means only the mother and father who are named on the birth certificate.  The sad truth is that grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren; however, this does not mean your relationship with your grandchildren must come to an end.

So what can I do?

If your former daughter or son in law is denying you access to your grandchild, there are certain options you have in regaining visitation rights. Due to the emotional and often complex nature of this situation, your first move should be to seek advice from an experienced family law solicitor.

The first option will be to attempt mediation, a form of dispute resolution that allows all parties to reach an agreement in a calm environment, avoiding the costs and time involved with court. This will only be successful if all parties are willing to cooperate, and in this case, if your daughter/son in law is willing to recognise the importance of your relationship with their child. A trained mediator will actively promote compromise and encourage a positive outcome that suits the needs of all parties.

If the situation is beyond cooperation and your daughter/son in law is refusing to discuss the matter, you can make an application for permission to apply for a Contact Order through the courts. The court will consider:

  • Your connection with the child
  • The nature of your application for contact
  • Whether the application will be harmful to the child’s well-being

If your application for permission is successful, you will then be able to apply for a regular Contact Order to gain, once again, access to your grandchildren. However, if one or both parents object to your application, it’s likely that you will have to attend a full hearing in which all parties will put forward their evidence and opinion.

If your grandchildren are over the age of 10, their views will be taken into consideration. This may work in your favour, as the court will always consider the needs of the child before anything else – however, they will only proceed with serving the Contact Order if they feel it is better for the child than no order at all.

Divorce commonly causes disputes that often extend beyond the couple in question, and can cause upset to children as well as grandchildren. If you need help gaining access to your grandchildren ,get in touch with us by phone or email us at to speak with our specialist family law solicitors today for strategic advice, support and resolution to the situation.