• Our son has separated from his wife and we have not seen our grandchildren for some time. What can we do?
  • Our son's solicitor says that we should wait until his own client's application for a contact order has been determined and then we might some time with our granddaughter. But we want to have some proper contact not just simply second-hand arrangements.
  • We honestly think that we can provide a better home for our grandson than either of his parents. Is there any chance that we could obtain a Residence Order?
  • As his uncle, I got on particularly well with my nephew during his parents' relationship and we had a lot to do with each other. Is there any chance that I might acquire some rights for contact?
  • Our daughter has just inherited some money from her grandmother's estate. There is a great deal of conflict over how this money is invested and what it is used for. Can we involve the Judge in determining this issue?
  • I am glad to be shot of her the last thing I want to do is to be delivering our son to my ex mother-in-law for contact.

General Principles

Research suggests that about half of grandparents loose contact with their grandchildren after parental separation. Grandparents can often feel edged out by a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law or caught in the middle of the dispute. They may be unable to pursue their wish to continue their important role in their grandchildren’s lives. Conversely, parents can feel uncomfortable dealing with grandparents as they may no longer be part of the grandparents’ family. Grandparents can provide loving, nurturing support and stability for children who are facing the emotional difficulties of parental separation. It may be that some form of family therapy can help if relations have broken down.

Grandparents and other relatives can also be the most appropriate carers for children in situations where it is no longer best for them to continue to live with either of their parents. The court has the power to grant a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order in favour of grandparents or other relatives such as aunts or uncles; should this be in the child’s best interest. This will also enable the grandparents or relatives to acquire parental responsibility for the child while the order is in force, thereby allowing them to make decisions in respect of the child’s upbringing. Without such an order, grandparents and other relatives do not have any such rights or responsibilities.

While a recently divorced parent may have little desire to maintain contact with his/her ex spouse’s family, the parent does not have the right to obstruct contact between the children and the grandparents just because they find it uncomfortable.

Grandparents Rights to Apply for
Residence, Contact, Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps Orders

Grandparents can apply for any order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 (i.e. residence, contact, specific issue and prohibited steps orders) without the leave (permission) of the court if they already have parental responsibility such as by means of, but not limited to, a Residence Order.

If grandparents, as will generally be the case, do not have parental responsibility, then they can apply for a Residence Order or a Contact Order, if:-

  • The child has lived with the grandparent for a period of at least 3 years which does not actually need to be continuous but must not have begun more than 5 years before the application or ended more than 3 years before the application is made.
  • They have the consent of any person in whose favour a residence order has been made
  • The consent of each person (if any) who has parental responsibility for the child.
  • In any case where the child is in the care of the local authority, the grandparent has the consent of the local authority.

If none of the above conditions are satisfied, then an application can be made for the leave (permission) of the court and this is relatively straightforward. In some instances, the court can consider the application and grant leave without hearing from the parties. However generally, the court will list a hearing to consider the application for leave and will require notice to be given to all relevant parties.

The criteria that the Judge will use are based upon the following:-

  • The nature of the application.
  • The grandparent/applicant’s connection with the child.
  • The risk of disruption to the child’s life.


John Turner, the Principal of Blackdown Family Law Solicitors has acted successfully on behalf of many grandparents and other relatives over his 16 year career as a family law solicitor. He can advise on all the options available to grandparents and the likelihood of obtaining residence, contact or other orders. John will help you to achieve the most effective and efficient solution to your case whilst taking into account all of the circumstances, most notably what is in the best interests of the children. Through extensive and successful experience he will work with you in order to achieve the best outcome to resolve any conflict.

Areas of Family Law Work
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