Grandparents – no automatic rights to see their grandchildren
It is far more common nowadays that grandparents provide care for their grandchildren so that the parents can continue to work and provide financial support for their family.
So what happens if the parents then separate and this causes a rift between one of the parents and the grandparents? In some cases, perhaps the parents haven't separated but there has been a disagreement between the parents and grandparents and the grandchildren have not been allowed to see the grandparents as a result. What can the grandparents do?
Under the law currently, grandparents do not have an automatic right to make an application to the court for an order to see their grandchildren.
If a grandparent cannot agree arrangements to see their grandchildren with the parent(s) such that they feel the need to involve a court, the grandparent must first get the Court's permission to make an application. This step means that a grandparent must satisfy a court that the application is an appropriate one to make. The idea of this is that any malicious or duplication of applications, can be avoided.
If parents have separated and one of them is applying to the court to sort out the child arrangements, it is probably not worth while grandparents making a separate application at the same time. If the circumstances are different to that though, it may be worth exploring the options, with an application to the Court being the last resort. Mediation or the collaborative process may still be available to grandparents and parents where these sorts of issues arise.
In a situation where a grandparent needs to have a grandchild live with them, they do not have any formal legal status to make decisions for that child just because the child stays with them, even with the parent's consent. It may be necessary to make an application to the court to regularise the position in the event that either or both of the parents are unable to look after the child and the grandparent needs to be able to act as the parent otherwise would.