LEGAL EAGLE: The difficulty in having contact with grandchildren when it is denied by a parent
When they were together, I used to see the children most days and helped with childcare. I was very close to them all, but now my daughter-in-law has stopped me from seeing them at all and said she will never allow me to have any contact with them. Do I have any right to see my grandchildren?
Unfortunately, the law does not give grandparents any automatic rights to see their grandchildren and so a parent can choose not to allow contact. This means that the best way to make sure you can continue to see the grandchildren is to try and repair the relationship between yourself and your daughter-in-law. This could be through professional mediation or a person who both you and your daughter-in-law trust who may be able to help you reach an agreement. Even if unsuccessful, you must be able to prove to the court that you have attended family mediation before any application can be made.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, then there are two stages which grandparents must go through in order to obtain a child arrangement order to allow you to have regular contact with the children.
Apply to the court for leave to make an application for a Child Arrangement Order. A decision on this would be based on matters such as your relationship with the children and how your application could impact their daily lives.
If leave to apply is granted, then an application for a Child Arrangement Order can be made. Just because Leave to apply is given, this would not guarantee that a Child Arrangement order would be granted.
If there were any concerns around the care of the children and it was believed that the children were at risk in any way, for example, if your daughter in law was struggling with an addiction or substance abuse or there was any indication that she was abusing or neglecting the children, then as a grandparent you may wish to put yourself forward as an alternative carer and apply for a Special Guardianship Order. This would usually only become an option where there is local authority involvement with the family and would involve an assessment by the local authority to ensure you were a suitable carer.