Having Contact with your Grandchildren

grandparentsThis Sunday 2nd October 2016 marks the UK’s ‘National Grandparent’s Day

The bond between a grandparent and their grandchild is often regarded as one of the most  precious              relationships in life. 

Grandparents are free of the stresses of parenting and can simply enjoy a fun and loving relationship with their grandchild.  

Often this relationship can be of great benefit, not only to both grandparent and grandchild but also to busy parents who can have some valued time off from parenting.

But what happens to those grandparents for whom a relationship with their grandchild is impossible due to refusal by either or both parents to allow them to have contact time with their grandchildren?   Often this can happen when the parents have separated and acrimony develops amongst the wider family.

I am not being allowed to see my grandchild – what can I do?

If you are a grandparent who is being refused contact with your grandchild,  you can make an application to the Court for a Contact Order.

What is a Contact Order?

A Contact Order would allow you Court-ordered contact with your grandchild.   This application would be made under the Children Order (NI) 1995.

What is the process for applying for a Contact Order?

At first instance,  you must seek permission from the Court to bring an application for a Contact Order.  Permission is normally sought at the same time as making the actual application and in all but exceptional circumstances this permission is granted.  Once permission has been granted, the Court then considers in more general terms your application for contact.

Who would be involved in contact proceedings?

The Court then considers in more general terms the grandparent’s application for contact.  Each parent would be a party in this application.  They are entitled ask the Court to consider any objections which they may have in relation to contact.

What does the Court have to consider when making a Contact Order?

The Court would consider all the circumstances of the case and in particular the best interests of the grandchild involved.  The Court may ask a Court appointed social worker, known as a Court Children’s Officer, to speak to your grandchild in order to establish what his/her views are in relation to having conatct with you. Your grandchild’s views will be taken into account however how much weight the Court places on their views will depend on their age and understanding – the Court is will consider the wishes and feelings of a 13 year old much more than they would of a 5 year old.

How much contact can I expect to get with my grandchild?

Whilst Courts are sympathetic to grandparent’s applications for contact and are aware of the importance of such a relationship, a grandparent would not generally expect as much contact as a parent who is living apart from his/her children.

In some exceptional circumstances a grandparent may apply for their grandchild to reside with them.  This would generally be in cases where the parents are not providing adequate care for their child.  In these cases,  a grandparent could apply for a Residence Order.  If a grandparent is awarded a Residence Order,  they automatically acquire Parental Responsibility for the child for so long as the Order remains in place.  this means that they can have a right to make decisions that are in their grandchild’s best interests.

It is of course of benefit to all concerned if contact arrangments can be agreed between parents and grandparents without having to go through the Courts.  However, it is no doubt reassuring to many grandparents that they are able to exercise grandparent’s rights via the Court if they are being refused contact with their grandchild.

If you would like any further information on the issue of grandparent contact, please feel free to contact us directly here or on email at kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or alternatively leave your comments confidentially below

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