People often assume that Family Mediation is for parties who are separating or divorcing; however, mediation is open for any family member, including grandparents. In this resource, we look at grandparents’ rights in mediation in regard to their grandchildren.

Unfortunately, it is often the case that when a relationship breaks down, the children involved will also lose contact with their grandparents. It can be difficult for grandparents to remain actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives when there is either animosity between the separated parties or when those parties start new relationships. It is at these times especially that the special relationship that grandparents can develop with their grandchildren can become difficult, and contact with them can diminish.

What are my rights as a Grandparent?

Usually, only the parents who are named on the child’s birth certificate have parental responsibility. If a grandparent hasn’t been allocated parental responsibility then they have no legal rights to see their grandchild/grandchildren. It is not against the law for a parent or guardian of any child/children to refuse contact with grandparents. However, if a discussion with the parties involved remains unfruitful, it is something that can often be resolved through mediation. The courts do recognise how important it is for grandchildren to have a relationship with their grandparents.

Why do Grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren

There are many instances where grandparents are seeking the help of a professional to help them have contact with their grandchildren.

1. They have had contact with their grandchild/children, stopped

2. They are seeking to become a person with parental responsibility for the grandchild/grandchildren, for example special guardianship orders

.3. There is a dispute when the child/children live with the grandparents and the Mother or Father are seeking contact.

How family mediation can help

As family mediation with grandparents is less adversarial than taking someone to court, it can help to have a professional present to facilitate discussions between the parties involved and to focus the discussion on the needs of the children involved rather than the differences between themselves. Family Mediation offers a place to resolve misunderstandings and to find a way forward, often resulting in positive dialogue and resolution.
The first step of family mediation is for the grandparent/s to attend what is known as a MIAM – Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. However, if you want to discuss if this is the right option for you and would also like to see if you are eligible for funding, please book a free consultation or call the office. In this meeting, the mediator will explore the suitability of mediation, any safeguarding concerns, what you would like to gain from mediation, contact information for all parties involved and will provide legal information suitable to your case. Once you have attended this one-to-one session, the mediator will then write to the other party and invite them to have a MIAM.

The second stage of family mediation is when all parties come together to discuss what is potentially going wrong and possible remedies. The mediator will support parties in reaching a fair but strong realistic agreement. Usually, grandparent cases in family mediation can take between 1 and 2 mediation sessions.

When a mutual agreement has been reached, parties can choose to have their agreement written up into a Memorandum of Understanding, which lays out exactly how the grandparent/s would be involved with the child/children. This is beneficial as it means all parties involved know where they are with the agreement and have a physical document to point to when there may be disagreements in the future.

Benefits

There are multiple benefits to using family mediation to support you in seeing your grandchildren.
Compared to making a court application and taking the other party to court, family mediation is less expensive. When utilising court, not only is there the application fee but any solicitors fees on top, and this also depends on how many times you need to go to court as this is likely to significantly increase the total cost.
In order to make a court application, a grandparent would still need to attend a Mediation information assessment meeting, as this is a legal requirement since 2014. If parties attempt a court application without a MIAM Certificate, their court application will be rejected.
Court is an adversarial approach and often pits parties against each other. Mediation, on the other hand, is a process which encourages parties to communicate and work together. When parties are in court battling each other, this can be an extremely intense and stressful environment, potentially damaging future relationships. Mediation, although it can be emotional, can be a lot calmer, especially when parties are more willing to engage in the process and work together.

What if we cannot reach an agreement in mediation

If the solution is not found via mediation, the case could be taken to the family court. A C100 MIAM Certificate would be required. The Mediator would provide this once the party has attended a MIAM. When the case is being heard in court, they will want to know the relationship with the children and whether your involvement in your grandchild’s life is the best thing for them.

There are a number of solutions the court may come up with:

1. Indirect contact – This is when a grandparent can have a relationship via messages, emails, calls and via FaceTime/Whatsapp. In this instance, the courts would be choosing that the grandparent and grandchild/children would not be having an in-person relationship.

2. In-person contact – This is when a court has decided it is best for the grandchild/ren to see their grandparents in person and that a relationship is beneficial for the children.

3. Supervised visits via a child contact centre.

4. No contact – If the court has decided that it is not in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with you, there are instances when you can appeal the decision.

If mediation does not work, then grandparents can look towards applying to the courts for a Contact Order. Whilst legally a grandparent may not have any specific rights, a court will seek to enforce what is in the best interests of the children involved, so if a grandparent can show that they have a had a meaningful relationship with a child and has played a significant part in their lives, that contact was lost due to the separation of the parents, and that the re-establishment of this relationship will be beneficial to the child, then a court will take this into consideration.

If within the court either or both of the parents/guardians raise objections, then a full hearing can be heard in which both parties will put forward the evidence they have either supporting or objecting to the different claims being made. The court will consider all of the circumstances presented to them and will make an order only in circumstances where it is deemed it is better for the child/children to have contact with the grandparents than making no court order at all, i.e. the grandparent not gaining contact with the child/children. They will weigh up the positives and negatives of a continuing relationship with the grandparents, including the impact on the rest of the family.

Considerations to improve good relationships between grandparents and parents

1. Try and remain neutral between your grandchild and their parents. If you are seen to be taking sides, this may seem that you are favouring one.

2. Provide support to both parents. This could be support with childcare, and the parent’s mental wellbeing. It is helpful for you to ask the parents what they need from you and the level of involvement they want you to have.

3. Try not to override the parent. Although this can be frustrating, it will do more harm than good if you provide too much advice on how to do things relating to the child/children.

4. Maintain consistency. This is beneficial for all parties, including the grandchild/children.

FAQs

”I had a good relationship with my grandchildren. Since my son and his ex-partner separated, I can no longer see them. What should I do?”

The first step is to attempt resolution by family mediation. If this is unsuccessful, you would then need to make an application to the family court and ask them to grant you access.

”Can a grandparent use mediation to help them see their grandchildren?”
Absolutely. A grandparent can utilise family mediation to help them see their grandchildren. Not only can they discuss seeing their grandchildren but also the ongoing relationship they may have with the child’s parent/s.

 

”Is there anything I can do to help my grandchild/children with how their lives have changed since their parents separated?’

The best thing for a child during or since their parent’s separation is consistency, so making sure there are people there to support the children. People who are able to let the children speak when they want and need to without judgment or criticism. Also, let them know they are loved and that the separation of their parents is not their own fault.

If you would like to find out more about family mediation and would like to speak to a mediator, please book a free consultation.

We hope you have enjoyed this resource and that it has been beneficial to you. Just a gentle reminder that all of the content on this website including resources, blogs, articles and content on web pages, is prohibited from being used or copied in any public domain unless stated otherwise. Access Mediation Services is also not responsible for the accuracy of these resources nor responsible for how people use the information we provide in this information.

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