What Rights Do Grandparents Have After Divorce?

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Becoming a grandparent is one of the most important moments of your life – perhaps even more so than becoming a parent in the first instance. Watching your own children blossom into smart, thoughtful, independent adults is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and especially so when they look to be bringing their own life into the world – and start making the same prenatal mistakes you did.

Of course, not every family story has a happy ending, and divorce is unfortunately a common truth of modern society. Sometimes relationships don’t work out, and sometimes families are necessarily split up in the process. As a grandparent, watching your child’s family split can be a heartbreaking thing – and not just out of heartache for your own offspring. The traditional family dynamic is thrown off-balance, and privileges once taken for granted could well hang in the balance.

Divorce and Grandchildren

This refers, of course, to grandparents having a proper, familial relationship with their grandchildren. Divorce can sometimes be a sticky process, and even stickier if the ex-spouses involved are engaged in bitter acrimony towards one another. Between it all, there is the question of whether or not you as a grandparent will enjoy the same access to your grandchildren that you may have done before. So, legally speaking, what rights do grandparents have towards their grandchildren in divorce?

Legal Rights

In brief, grandparents have no automatic legal rights to their grandchildren. This news might be disheartening to see on first read, but is not the strike-down it seems. For one, the law here is working in favour of children, where malicious actors could frustrate civil legal processes in order to force custody agreements one way or another. Grandparents do not have an inalienable right to their grandchildren in order to protect some grandchildren from some predatory or abusive practices.

The good news is that informal mediation processes are available to well-meaning grandparents, and a necessary first step in retaining access to and relationships with the children affected. It is only when no agreement has been reached that further measures may be taken.

Arrangement Order

These further measures take the form of a child arrangements order: a court-ordered arrangement that stipulates a number of specifics regarding the child or children in question, from where they live to what kind of contact may be permitted between them and another party. Family lawyers can offer support if you are thinking about taking this route and advise accordingly.

The Process

Unless the children in question have lived with their grandparents before for at least a year, the grandparents must first apply to the courts for leave to apply for an arrangements order. This is an additional layer of protection for the children, to minimise potential harm caused by potential bad actors. After leave has been accepted, grandparents may apply for the order itself – which examines visitation stipulations with welfare in mind.

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