Do grandparents have rights?
We’re going to share with you what rights grandparents have when it comes to their grandchildren in Northern Ireland.
Grandparents have a big influence on a grandchild’s life, however when the relationship between parents is dissolved, or the child’s grandparents break up, things can change dramatically.
Grandparents have no automatic responsibilities regarding their children.
What are grandparents’ rights to see their grandchildren?
It is important to remember that in Northern Ireland, there is no such thing as a grandparent’s automatic right to see their grandchild.
This means that if grandparents want to spend time with their grandchildren, they must ask permission from the child’s parents.
However, family disputes happen and family relationships break down
If the child’s parents agree to let the grandparents see their grandchild, then this should not be a problem. However, if the parents do not agree, then the grandparents may have to go to court to get permission to see their grandchild. This can be a long and expensive process, so it is always best to try and reach an agreement with the child’s parents first.
In making a decision, the court will take into account the wishes of the child’s parents, as well as any other relevant factors. Grandparents who have a contact order in place can request that the police enforce it if they are denied access to their grandchildren. However, enforcement is not guaranteed, and grandparents may ultimately need to take legal action if they continue to be denied contact.
What if the grandparents are worried about their grandchild?
Sometimes, grandparents may be worried about their grandchild’s welfare. If this is the case, they can contact the child’s parents to express their concerns. If the parents do not take action to address the grandparents’ concerns, then the grandparents can contact social services.
Social services will assess the situation and decide whether or not they need to intervene. If they decide that intervention is necessary, they will work with the family to try and resolve the issue.
Grandparents rights and Child Arrangement Orders
If grandparents want to spend time with their grandchild but the child’s parents do not agree, then the grandparents can apply for a Child Arrangement Order. This is a legal order that would give the grandparents permission to see their grandchild.
Grandparents do not have automatic parental responsibility, but they may apply for a Child Arrangement Order for a number of reasons, including if a grandchild has been removed from their care and you believe it is not in the child’s best interests.
The courts will consider a range of criteria, including;
- Grandparents’ involvement in the children’s lives
- What the stance of the legal parents / guardians is
- Is the application harmful to a young person?
The court will examine each case on its own and determine whether grandparents’ permission should be granted to make the request.
When the Court considers all of the circumstances, they will only make a Child Arrangements Order if it is deemed beneficial to the child.
Grandparents’ rights and special guardianship
Grandparents might be appointed Special Guardians for their grandchildren if care proceedings are filed in relation to the child, or if parents are unable to look after their children.
A Special Guardianship order allows the Special Guardian to exercise parental responsibility without having to consult others who have parental responsibility, such as the child’s parents.
If a grandparent is proposed as a Special Guardian, the local authority will conduct an investigation to decide if they are suitable. A Special Guardianship arrangement is intended to keep children in one place for the duration of their life until they reach age 18.
If a parent or someone with parental responsibility applies to the Court to get a Special Guardianship Order lifted, they must show that there has been a significant change in their circumstances since the order was made.
Adoption or foster care
The local authority has a responsibility to promote contact with the child’s birth family when the child is placed into care, so long as such contact is in the youngster’s best interests.
Unfortunately, Children’s Services staff seldom consider contact with the grandparents a high priority due to their obligation to prioritise parents.
How do I request more time with my grandchildren?
Contact the parents or guardians first for help. It will be helpful for you to negotiation and find a way to get your grandchildren to stay. If there isn’t a settlement, it’s a good idea to consider mediation with a trained family law specialist.
An independent professional called a mediator will help both parties to reach agreement in a secure environment. Mediation meets all parties’ interests. Mediating is likely to have a more lasting impact as both sides have ownership over the plan and arrangements. The proceedings are far less confrontational than those that are contested before a judge.
Applying for access to a grandchild
If you want to apply for access to your grandchild in Northern Ireland, there are a few things you need to do. First, you need to fill out an application form. You can get this form from your local court office or from the Child Maintenance Service. Once you have the form, you’ll need to include some basic information about yourself and your relationship to the child. You’ll also need to explain why you’re seeking access to the child. Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to submit it to your local court office.
A judge will then review your application and decide whether or not to grant you access to the child. If you’re granted access, you’ll be able to visit with your grandchild on a regular basis. If you’re not granted access, you may still be able to visit with your grandchild if the other parent agrees to it.
Appealing the court’s decision
The courts make a decision whether access is granted. You have the opportunity to appeal a decision from the judge within 15 days of the decision taking place. You must submit your appeal to the Appeals Court.
Can a mother stop grandparents seeing grandchildren?
The answer varies depending on the situation and the relationship of the grandparents to the child. If the grandparents are the child’s legal guardians, then the answer is no, a mother cannot stop them from seeing their grandchildren. However, if the grandparents are not the child’s legal guardians, then a mother can keep them from seeing their grandchildren if she has sole custody..
It is important to remember that even if a mother has sole custody of her children, she still needs to allow the father to have contact with his children unless there is a court order stating otherwise. Therefore, if a mother does not want her children to see their grandparents, she may need to get a court order prohibiting contact between her children and their grandparents.
Do I have legal rights to see my grandchild?
Grandparents in Northern Ireland have no legal right to see their grandchildren, even if they have had a close relationship in the past. This can be a difficult situation to deal with, especially if the grandparents live nearby and have been an important part of the child’s life. However, there are some things that grandparents can do to try and maintain contact with their grandchildren. For example, they can talk to the child’s parents about visiting or keeping in touch, and they can stay involved in the child’s life as much as possible. Additionally, grandparents can seek out support from organizations that help families deal with difficult situations. By taking these steps, grandparents can still play a role in their grandchildren’s lives, even if they don’t have legal rights to see them.
For professional legal advice on the rights of the grandparent get in touch here.