“You are my inspiration”. Words of a grateful grandson on his grandfather’s 90th birthday. What is the best thing about being a grandparent? “Watching them grow up”. Words of the 90-year-old grandfather.
In an ideal world, a grandparent is the person who can share the joys of a child without the burden of day-to-day care of the child. We do not, however, live in an ideal world. Sadly, there are grandparents who are deprived of spending time with their grandchildren, perhaps due to the separation of the parents or other family conflict, and then there are grandparents who are required to take on the long-term care of the grandchildren due to a parent’s incapacity.
A grandparent who is not able to spend time with a grandchild may be able to seek a Child Arrangements order under the Children Act 1989 to allow them to see the grandchild. Permission is usually required before such an application can proceed but provided the grandparent can demonstrate a connection and that an application has a reasonable prospect of success then permission is given. The welfare of the child is paramount, and a court has to decide whether the child can spend time with the applicant's grandparent, taking into account the welfare checklist contained in the Children Act. The process is not always straight forward and we recommend that you seek legal advice before making any application. Mediation should if possible be attempted before any legal application is issued because court proceedings should be seen as a last resort and are protracted, expensive, can raise animosity between the adults, and cause uncertainty and anxiety for the children. The court will require that an applicant has at least attended a mediation information and assessment meeting.
A grandparent who faces caring for a child in place of a parent may need to consider obtaining a Special Guardianship Order or becoming a foster carer. This can be quite a complex process and an assessment by Children Services is required before a court can grant a Special Guardianship Order. This may be during child care proceedings when a grandparent may be called on to step in at short notice or a freestanding application may be appropriate.
At Clifton Ingram, we have qualified mediators who can offer mediation in the hope that court proceedings can be avoided. We have members of the family law team who are members of the Law Society Children Law panel and who specialise in child care proceedings and Special Guardianship. We can assist in private law applications for a Child Arrangements Order.
This article is written as a general guide and believed correct at the date of publication. If you need further or more specific information relating to your situation, please get in touch with us.