There are over 14 million grandparents in the UK and many of them play a significant role in their grandchildren’s lives, particularly when it comes to providing regular childcare whilst parents work. Sadly, the breakdown in a relationship between parents can have an impact on the time grandchildren spend with their grandparent(s). This can often be very difficult for both the grandparent(s) and the grandchildren who may have previously enjoyed a close relationship, spending regular time together. While it is hoped that an agreement can be reached about how children can spend time with their grandparent(s), it is not always possible and other ways to resolve disputes may need to be considered.
Mediation can be a useful way to try to resolve disputes and, if successful, it can avoid stressful and often costly court proceedings. If this is not appropriate or is unsuccessful, an application to the court for a Child Arrangements order may be necessary
A Child Arrangements order sets out arrangements for children in relation to who they will live and spend time with. There are different ways that contact could take place including direct face to face contact, supervised contact and indirect contact such as letters, cards and presents. It may also include contact by telephone or video calls.
Usually, grandparents do not automatically have a right to make an application to the court and they need to obtain permission from the court to apply for a Child Arrangements order. However, there are some circumstances where permission will not be required, such as if the grandparent has parental responsibility for the child, the child has lived with the grandparent(s) for more than 3 years or all parties with parental responsibility consent to permission being granted to the grandparent who wants to apply for the order.
To make an application to the court, grandparent(s) will need to file a C100 form setting out the reasons for the application for which permission is sought supported by a written statement and a draft of the order. Form C1A may also need to be filed where there are allegations of harm to the child. If a grandparent wants to keep their address confidential from the other parties then they should also file form C8.
To decide whether to grant permission, the court will take account of the nature of the application, the applicant grandparent’s connection with the child, any risk there might be of that proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that they would be harmed by it, and where the child is being looked after by a local authority, what the authority’s plans for the child’s future are, and the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents.
If permission is granted, the court will consider the application for a Child Arrangements order. The main concern for the court will be the child’s welfare and the court’s decision will be largely based on what is in the child’s best interests. To help the court reach a decision, they will consider the following:
- the wishes and feelings of the child concerned
- the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision
- the child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that will be relevant to the court’s decision
- any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering
- the capability of the child’s parents (or other relevant people) in meeting the child’s needs, and
- the powers available to the court
If the court considers that it is in the child’s best interests to spend time with the grandparent(s), a Child Arrangements order can be made setting out the times and days of the week this should take place.
If you require any further information about this, please contact our Rebecca Law on 0300 373 7885.