Statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that the number of applications for child arrangements orders made by grandparents has increased from 1,617 in 2014 to almost 2,000 in 2016. In addition, between January and June last year there were more than 1,000 applications; suggesting 2017 figures are likely to be even higher.
It is unfortunately a sad fact that some grandparents do not have contact with their grandchildren. There are a variety of reasons for this including family fall-outs between the parents and grandparents, the separation of the parents, the relocation of a family many miles away and a death in the family which has caused communications to fail. It is important, particularly in unsettling situations like these, for healthy relationships between children and the adults in their lives to be maintained.
The role that a grandparent can play in a child’s life should be taken seriously. Contact with a grandparent is very important and so should be exercised where possible. The family courts recognise this, and it is why a grandparent may apply to the court for an order determining who the child should have contact with and any conditions that should be applied to that contact.
As with all disputes regarding the arrangements for children, an application to court should be a last resort. It is best to try to agree contact arrangements with the child’s parents direct. In situations where this is not possible, family mediation may be helpful as it can encourage focus to be placed on the child’s needs rather than any issues that have arisen between the adults that has led to the loss of contact in the first place. Mediation is often a cheaper alternative to court action, but in some situations it might not be suitable. In those instances a grandparent can ask the court for permission to apply for a court order for contact with their grandchild.
The paramount consideration for the court will be the child’s welfare, and so they must decide if contact with the grandparent is in the grandchild’s best interests, and consider whether contact with the grandparent would give rise to any risk of harm. They will also consider the relationship between the grandparent and the child; this includes both the biological relationship and the actual relationship they have previous enjoyed.
Whilst the statistics suggest that the number of grandparents that do not have contact with their grandchildren is growing, the increase in applications may be a result of an improved awareness of the options and rights available to grandparents to help them to re-establish contact with their grandchildren. At Neves, we are keen to promote the importance of the relationship between a grandparent and their grandchild. We are members of Grandparents Plus and have attended meetings with a local support group, Granpart.
It can be an emotionally demanding experience for a grandparent to apply for a contact order, but with the right guidance, legal advice, and attitude, a good outcome can often be achieved. If you have lost touch with your grandchild and want to discuss the options available to you please do not hesitate to contact us today. We have an arrangement in place with Grandparents Plus regarding an initial meeting. Alternatively, take advantage of our fixed fee scheme and attend an hour meeting with one of our family solicitors at a reduced fee of half the normal charging rate.