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 blog 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?
Grandparents do not have any automatic rights in regard to contact with their grandchildren and 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. 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.
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. It is essential that as grandparents, you can prove that you have a worthwhile and on-going relationship with any child/children involved. 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 the grandparents, including the impact on the rest of the family.
If you would like to find out more about family mediation and would like to speak to a mediator please book a free consultation.