Do grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren?

Grandparents often play a beneficial role in their grandchildren’s lives. However, if the relationship between a grandparent and their children breaks down, it can mean that they may lose out on seeing their grandchildren.

Grandparents do not have an automatic legal right to have contact with their grandchildren and cannot apply for parental responsibility. It is mainly down to a child’s parents who they permit their children to spend time with.

For this reason, it is always advisable to try and deal with matters amicably. This can be difficult, particularly if a child’s parents have separated and one of them does not want you to see the child. However, by remaining calm, friendly and approachable, you stand the best chance of keeping the channels of communication open.

Court application by grandparents to see grandchildren

In the event that contact has broken down, it is open to grandparents to apply to the court for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order. While this sort of order is usually only available to those with parental responsibility, the court will look at each case individually and decide whether it is appropriate in any set circumstances.

Before you can apply, you will need to attend a mediation meeting, to see if the family can reach an informal agreement.

If an agreement is not reached, the mediator will be able to fill in a form certifying to the court that you have attempted mediation.

If the court agrees to allow you to apply for an order in respect of time with a grandchild, it will hear evidence from all parties and make the decision which it believes is in the best interests of the child.

The decision can include details of where the child is to live, with whom the child will spend time, when this will take place and what sort of communication will be allowed. This could include face-to-face contact, telephone calls or letters.

The court does place a value on time spent with grandparents and will take into account any tie that exists between grandparents and their grandchildren.

Other situations

If you wish to take on more of a parenting role for your grandchildren, for example, if their parents are unable to do this, then there is another option open to you.

You can ask the court to appoint you as a special guardian, giving you parental responsibility so that you can make decisions for the child without consulting the child’s parents. The local authority will carry out an assessment of you to ensure you are able to take on the role.

If granted, a special guardianship order will usually place the child with you until they are 18, although it is open to a parent to apply for the discharge of the order in the event that their circumstances change.

Staying involved

It can be beneficial for children to have their grandparents in their lives, and it has also been shown that in the case of paternal grandparents, where they stay involved with their grandchildren, their sons are then more likely to stay in their children’s lives.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert family lawyers, contact us on 0345 2413100 or email us at

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