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Grandparents often play an important role in family life.  They provide guidance, impart wisdom, and offer unconditional love and support to younger family members. Grandparents often form close bonds with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, situations can arise which result in that bond being broken. A common example is when the parents of children separate. The parent who retains residence of the children following separation might seek to limit or restrict the other parent’s involvement in the children’s lives. This decision can have a knock-on effect on members of the wider family, including grandparents. It can come as a surprise to grandparents who find themselves in these situations to discover that they do not have an automatic legal right to contact their grandchildren. This article explores grandparents’ rights to child contact and what grandparents can do in such situations.

Speak to the Parents

Grandparents should speak directly to the parents to sort out the arrangements for the children’s care. They should be mindful of the fact that the parents may feel hurt or betrayed by the incident which has triggered contact being withheld. Grandparents should steer away from using emotional language which focuses on blame or recrimination. They should focus instead on building bridges with the parents with a view to reinstating contact with their grandchildren.

Instruct a Family Lawyer

Grandparents might find it too difficult to speak directly to parents, particularly in the aftermath of an argument where cross words have been exchanged between the parties and trust has been broken. They might find it easier to deal with parents at arm’s length while tensions are high. Grandparents can approach a family law solicitor to help them navigate tricky family dynamics and can instruct a family law solicitor to correspond with parents on their behalf in order to try and reach an agreement on contact with their grandchildren.

Grandmom Enjoys time Studying with granddaughter

Attend Mediation

Another option for resolving disputes related to grandchildren is Mediation. This involves bringing the grandparents and parents together to discuss the issues that they are facing in the presence of a trained Mediator. The Mediator does not pick sides or offer legal advice. The purpose of the Mediator is to facilitate a civil and sensible discussion about the care arrangements for the children.

The goal of Mediation is to try and reach a resolution for contact that everyone is happy with. The parties must attend voluntarily and show that they are prepared to put aside any ill feeling that they have towards one another and focus on making decisions that best serve the children.

Apply for a Court Order

As a measure of last resort, grandparents can seek an order under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. In considering whether to grant an order under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, a sheriff must adopt a child-centred approach. A sheriff will consider, amongst other things, the children’s attachment to their grandparents; the involvement of the grandparents in the children’s care and upbringing to date; and the grandparents’ motivation for seeking the order. If the Sheriff is satisfied at the conclusion of his or her fact-finding inquiry that to grant the order would be in the best interests of the children concerned, then they will go ahead and do so.

A sheriff will also consider the “minimum intervention” principle. Put simply, a sheriff will only interfere in private family matters and make an order in respect of the children if this would be better for the children than to make no order at all. A sheriff must also obtain the views of the children and take those into account when making an important decision regarding their care.

Please contact us if you are affected by any of these issues.  Our Family Law Team is here to help.  This article was prepared by Laura Cousins, solicitor.

The content of this article is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Scullion LAW accepts no responsibility for the content of any third-party website to which this article refers.

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