Q: Since my son died I have helped with my grand-daughters, regularly collecting them from school and having them in the holidays. Last year my daughter-in-law met someone who lives down south and she is talking about moving down there. I now only see the girls when it suits her. She takes them down south most weekends and the boyfriend and his parents clearly want the girls to break ‘the tie’ they have with me. I am worried that once they move I won’t see them. Do I have any legal right to access?
A: Currently the law does not give automatic rights of contact to grandparents but you could apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order to determine how often your granddaughters will spend time with you. Grandparents fall outside the category of people who can automatically make applications to the Court so you would need to seek leave to apply for an Order. Criteria that apply to such applications is strict, but there is nothing to indicate you would encounter any difficulties. If you can show that you have a meaningful and important connection with your granddaughters, and the court feels it is in the children’s best interests, there is a good chance you would be successful in securing an Order in your favour.
It may, however, be better for the children if you could reach an amicable arrangement with their mother without involving the court process. In the first instance you could approach her, voice your concerns and your belief that they would miss you if they were unable to maintain the strong relationship you have with them. A trained Family Mediator could help with this and could go through all your options in more detail. You can access advice from the Grandparents Association, or approach a family lawyer who is on their list.