How A Solicitor Can Help Grandparents See Their Grandchildren Following Divorce


Grandparents are the forgotten victims of divorce.  When parents separate, the focus is on supporting them to work out arrangements for children, i.e. who will the child live with most of the time and when will the other parent see them.  Although parents are the cornerstone of a child’s life, the role grandparents play should not be underestimated, especially during divorce, which is well-known to be a traumatic time, regardless of how amicable relations are between the parents.

Family law solicitors can provide invaluable support to grandparents who are struggling with lack of access to their grandchildren.  They can also help grandparents who wish to be appointed as a special guardian to their grandchild if their parent is struggling to cope.

What rights do grandparents have to see their grandchildren if the parent’s divorce?

Unfortunately, there is no law that states grandparents must be allowed to see their grandchildren following the divorce of the parents.  And given the high emotional state those going through a divorce often experience, it is not unusual for one parent to deny access to the grandparents of the other party in order to hurt them.

Tragically, it is the children who are most damaged in this situation.  Grandparents can, according to Resolution, a group of 6,500 family law solicitors who follow a Code of Practice to promote a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family matters, can help children deal with their parents’ divorce by listening to them and discussing their feelings.

If you are being prevented from seeing or talking to your grandchildren, the best step to take initially is to try and talk to the parent who is obstructing the relationship and work out a solution between you.  If this does not prove fruitful, the best thing you can do is seek the advice of a family law solicitor.

Many family law solicitors, especially those who practice Collaborative Law, are experienced in preserving or even resurrecting family relationships in times of high emotional stress.  They understand that gentle, positive, but firm techniques are key to ensuring the door is re-opened to grandparents who are being denied access to their grandchildren.  Your solicitor may start off by writing a letter to the parent, stating your wish to talk to your grandchildren.  If this does not yield a result, alternative dispute resolution methods such as round-table negotiation and/or mediation may be employed.

If none of these approaches work, a grandparent may apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.

Grandparents do not usually have an automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangement Order; they must obtain leave (permission) from the Court to make an application.  In deciding whether to grant leave to a grandparent, the court will consider:

The overriding concern of the judge will be the welfare of the child.  The Court may ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to prepare what is known as a Section 7 report to help it resolve the dispute between the parent and grandparents.  Cafcass is an independent organisation charged with looking after the interests of children involved in family proceedings.  A Cafcass officer will prepare this report after meeting with both parties and the child (alone where possible and only i the child has sufficient maturity and understanding).

Whether a Child Arrangements Order will be granted depends on how the court views the relationship with the grandparents from the child’s point of view.  An Order will only be granted if it is in the child’s best interest.

What is a Special Guardianship Order?

If social services have become involved with your grandchildren and the parents are unable to cope with their care, either through mental health issues, addiction, or emotional issues, you can apply to the court for a Special Guardianship Order, which will allow you can take over the care of your grandchild.

Described as a halfway solution between a Residence Order and an Adoption Order, a Special Guardianship Order confers parental responsibility on the grandparent, allowing them to make decisions regarding the child schooling, where they live and their extra-curricular activities etc.

A family law solicitor can assist you with applying for a Special Guardianship Order, and should it become apparent the parents will never be able to permanently take care of their child, a possible Adoption Oder.

In summary

The relationship between a child and their grandparent can be incredibly special.  When parents are divorcing, or struggling to look after the child, a grandparent’s love and support can prove to be a child’s saving grace.  If you are being denied the opportunity to provide your grandchild with love and support, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

At Hart Reade, each of our family law solicitors are members of Resolution.  In addition, many of our team are Collaborative Lawyers.  Both organisations advocate for using non-confrontational methods for resolving family law disputes.

We can provide you with a wealth of information, advice and support regarding children’s law matters.  To talk to any of the family law team, please call us on 01323 727 321. 

Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.