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Grandparents: Access to grandchildren when the parents split

More grandparents than ever before are going to court for the right to see their grandchildren, recent figures reveal.

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that grandparents applied to family courts for almost 2,000 child arrangement orders in 2016 compared to 1,617 applications in 2014.

Close bonds with grandchildren are more and more common as grandparents increasingly help out with child care, inevitably spending lots of time together.

As a result, they are devastated if they are no longer able to see these grandchildren when parents separate and are turning to the courts for help and to formalise access arrangements.

What rights do grandparents have?

Sadly, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren, no matter how close the relationship or how much time they previously spent together.

However, family courts recognise the importance and value of the relationship between grandparent and child and it is rare for access to be refused.

The Court always makes its decision based on the best interests of the child or children and any alleged welfare or safeguarding concerns.

How are arrangements for children decided?

Following the breakdown of a relationship between the parents, courts are often asked to help decide future arrangements for any children. This includes where and with whom they are to live as well as who they are to spend time and have contact with.

These orders are called Child Arrangement Orders and a parent can apply for one at any time. Grandparents, however, need permission from the court to apply for a Child Arrangement Order.

Our legal guide Grandparents and their grandchildren explains more about what you need to do when applying for an order.

Amy Jones specialises in family, divorce and relationship breakdown matters as well as issues concerning children and finances. For help and legal advice on this area of the law, please contact Amy directly, any member of our Family Law and Divorce team or pop into one of our 11 local offices