Q: My husband and I had a very close relationship with our three grandchildren until two years ago when our son’s ex-wife remarried. Since then she has refused to let us see them. Do we have any legal rights to see them and, if so, how do we go about enforcing our rights?
A: Unfortunately grandparents do not have any automatic right to be part of their grandchildren’s lives. However, the courts do recognise that grandparents play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren and if they consider it to be in the best interests of the children they can issue a child arrangement order.
You would not be able to take such a case straight to court, however, without first going through the Mediation process. This is because nowadays the Family Courts support and encourage settling disputes without going to Court if possible and there is a requirement for all the parties in any family dispute to attend an initial assessment meeting to establish whether any other methods of resolution may be appropriate. Only as a last resort will cases go to court.
In the majority of cases mediation has been proven to help reduce conflict between family members after separation or divorce and it is often the best way to reduce conflict. The mediation process is voluntary for all parties so your former daughter-in-law would need to attend the sessions. Some law firms such as GHP Legal provide Mediation Services and you would be guided through the process by a fully trained and neutral mediator who can talk through the issues you have and help to solve them and work out what is the best way forward for you and your grandchildren. Making an appointment to see a Mediator for an initial assessment would be a sensible first step to take.