Grandparents Rights

When a couple chooses to separate, it is not only the immediate family of parents and children who are affected.

Grandparents often are very worried when their own children take the decision to separate from their spouse or partner as on occasion grandparents can be excluded from their grandchildren’s lives. This can obviously be a very worrying and traumatising time not only for grandparents themselves but also for the grandchildren particularly if they have a close relationship.

Current statistics show that on average grandparents spend around 9 hours a week caring for grandchildren, and the reality is that grandparents will be carrying out far more of the childcare for their own children to allow them to continue to work, along with the soaring costs of private childcare. With these current trends in family dynamics and involvement, where a grandparent is extensively involved in a child’s life, it can be absolutely devastating if contact between them and their grandchild is terminated. And, of course ,this situation could also arise even if the couple has not separated but contact is inhibited or terminated between grandparents and their grandchildren.

What can Grandparents do in such a situation?

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 is the relevant legislation in relation to orders being made by the courts in respect of children. There is no specific provision for contact between grandparents and grandchildren. This means there is no specific provision in law and there are no specific rights afforded to grandparents and the grandparent/grandchild relationship. However, that does not mean that grandparents are precluded altogether from being able to raise a court action and seek orders in their own right in respect of their grandchildren.

To raise an action in respect of a child in the family courts in Scotland, parties would require to raise what is known as a “section 11 action” This is an action which seeks orders in relation to a child for example for contact. To be able to raise such an action, the person raising it must be able to demonstrate that they have an interest in that child’s life. A grandparent should be able to demonstrate that they have had an interest in the child’s life particularly if they have had extensive involvement with the child. An example would be having provided regular care for the child whether on a formal or informal schedule. As with all court actions, we can never guarantee that the court will make an order in favour of a grandparent but one is not precluded from raising an action on the basis that it can be demonstrated they have a genuine interest in the child’s life.

There are other ways that disputes in relation to children can be resolved. Parties can attend at mediation or arbitration, or we can attempt to resolve the issue via negotiation. The important thing is to take advice as early as possible to take the steps that are required to try to re-establish a relationship with your grandchildren if there has been a cessation of contact. The longer the period of time that passes without contact, the more difficult it can be to reinstate contact and we would always advise clients to take action as quickly as possible to protect their relationship with their grandchildren.

Please call us for further advice on 01383 431 101 or email danielle@caritaslegal.co.uk

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