In the UK grandparents do not have automatic visiting rights to their grandchildren. This means that in the case of an acrimonious divorce they can sometimes not see their grandchildren for long periods of time. Most of the time things calm down and the grandparents get to see their grandchildren. However, in some cases this never happens, or does not happen until the grandchildren are much older.

By law only parents, stepparents, a guardian or a person with whom the child has lived for at least 3 years have the right to see the children. Basically, this means only people with parental rights to the child. So, if a grandparent wants to see their grandchildren they need to use their powers of persuasion rather than the law to achieve this, at least in the first instance.

When a relationship breaks down the grandparents should try to continue to see and speak to the grandchildren as normal. In this way, the relationship can often continue as normal. However, if the parent the grandchildren are living with begins to say no to your seeing your grandchildren, you need to try to resolve the issue quickly. Sit down with the parent and calmly explain that you are anxious to continue to be part of the child’s life and feel that there is a distance developing between you. Ask the parent to assure you that you can still visit. Discuss when and where this can happen. Most importantly explain that you do not wish to take sides or interfere with the divorce.

If talking things through privately does not work then consider mediation. Both parties need to agree to meet to discuss things with the mediator. A good solicitor will have a list of independent mediators that you can use. Those solicitors that practice collaborative law are the best to use to find a mediator.

For the rare occasion where mediation fails you can ask the courts for help. For this you need a solicitor who has experience in cases involving contact rights for grandparents. The judge will need to be convinced that you have been a significant part of your grandchild’s life in the past and will continue to be so. You will also have to prove that you have been and will be a positive influence on the child’s life. Keep notes of all previous attempts you have made to ensure that you get to see your grandchildren, proving you have tried hard will help the judge to see that you are serious about seeing your grandchildren.

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