Amidst the turmoil of family breakdown, grandparents sometimes lose contact with their grandchildren. In this article we outline the options for restoring contact.

When a relationship breaks down, whether the couple are married or not, other family members will be affected, including children and grandparents.

For some time now, the law has promoted the “welfare principle” which considers what is in the child’s best interests?

Research has shown that it is important for a child to have good quality and consistent contact with both parents. This would usually involve direct and also indirect contact, such as telephone contact, emails being exchanged and contact over Skype. This direct and indirect contact is not restricted to parents, but it could include contact with grandparents as well.

Grandparents are usually an integral part of a child’s family life, and can provide stability at a difficult time when parents separate. The situation can often be managed more effectively if the child is in a position to maintain contact with close family members.

Grandchildren have a right to see their grandparents, even in situations where their parents’ relationship has broken down. If one of the parents does not agree with this, then the grandparent has choices to make. There are three main options:

  • raise and address the issue directly with the parent;
  • request a solicitor to negotiate contact on their behalf; or
  • make an application through the court.

If the grandparents are not successful in pursuing the first two options then the courts will consider applications made by grandparents for contact with grandchildren.

In such a situation, the court would ask “what is in the child’s best interest?” If contact with the grandparents is in the child’s best interests, then this should take place and the parent(s) should facilitate this.

If it is not in the child’s best interests, then the application can be rejected. However, the court could also make an order whereby contact between grandparents and grandchildren is encouraged and developed over time.

There have been situations in which grandparents have made successful applications for their grandchildren to come and live with them, known as “residence”. Again, a court would only make such an order if it was in the child’s best interests to do so.

Residence and contact is a complex area of family law. The situation is usually complicated further by the general difficulties that the family, and sometimes the extended family, are experiencing as a result of emotional and financial pressures at such a time.

However, grandparents who are unable to spend time with their grandchildren should not necessarily accept that this relationship is going to terminate or be adversely affected, simply because the parents’ relationship has broken down. An experienced family solicitor will be able to explore the available options and guide them through the legal processes.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.