Grandparents’ rights

Many grandparents play a key role in the lives of their grandchildren from helping with day-to-day activities to providing regular childcare.

When relationships breakdown, grandchildren and grandparents often suffer a separation through no wish of their own.  

Grandparents do not have any automatic rights when it comes to seeing their grandchildren and nor do they have automatic parental responsibility or the ability to get parental responsibility through a court order. However, the courts recognise a child’s right to family life, and that includes grandparents who have supported and cared for them.  

Our lawyers

We know and understand that children benefit from relationships with their extended family. Grandparents can also be an important source of support for children whose parents are separating. Our children lawyers have advised a wide range of family members, ensuring they receive specialist legal advice and support tailored to their circumstances.  

We have:  

  • advised and represented grandparents and other close family members in court proceedings where the family were looking to spend time with the children following an acrimonious separation between the parents 
  • advised grandparents who want to care for their grandchildren full-time, exploring the options available and working with them to secure their grandchildren's emotional and financial welfare 
  • obtained parental responsibility orders for grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren full time

We also have experience in advising close family members on applying for special guardianship orders and fostering. 

What you need to know

Grandparents' rights to see and spend time with their grandchildren after divorce or a family breakdown can be a thorny issue. However, there are steps you can take if you find one or both parents are stopping you from seeing your grandchildren. 

  • You should try and discuss your issues and feelings with the parents. Even though they are no longer in a relationship, that shouldn’t mean that you can’t have a relationship with your grandchildren. If you find meeting face-to-face difficult, you could try writing them a letter or email instead. 
  • If you've not made much progress discussing things directly, you could try mediation as an alternative way to discuss things and reach an agreement. 
  • As a last resort, you may need to apply to the court. As grandparents, you can’t just apply to the court to see your grandchildren. Most grandparents have to apply for the court’s permission first (sometimes called “leave”) to make an application. The judge will consider your relationship with your grandchildren and the type of application you want to make before making a decision.  

If you are given permission to make your application, you will find the orders the court can make for grandparents are like the ones that are made for parents which set out where the child will live and who they will spend time with (a “child arrangements order”). However, there are some extra ones to be aware of:  

  • special guardianship orders – where you are appointed as the special guardian of your grandchild until they turn 18 
  • kinship foster care – when you become the official foster carer for your grandchild 
  • adoption – when you become your grandchild’s legal parent  

Frequently Asked Questions

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