Grandparents, parental separation and divorce

Originally published on 29th February 2024 at 1:29 PM
Reading time: 4 mins
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As a grandparent, it can be challenging if your child is going through a separation or divorce. You may be worried about how your grandchildren will cope and how this will impact your ability to spend time with them.

When parents separate, they have parental responsibility and automatically have the right to continue to see and spend time with their children. However, it’s a little different when it comes to grandparents.

In this blog, we'll explore some legal basics and provide tips to help you navigate this.

The legal basics for grandparents and divorce:

In England and Wales, the law doesn't automatically give you the right to see your grandchildren if one of the parents disagrees. It's a tricky situation because legally, grandparents aren't seen in the same way as parents are to their children, and this means you don't have an automatic right to see your grandchildren after a divorce.

When it comes to keeping in touch with your grandchildren, here are some options:

Talk it out as a family

Try to have a conversation with both parents and reach a fair agreement about spending time with your grandchildren.

Tip: If the parents aren't ready to sit down and talk with you as a family, try speaking to them individually, and then move towards the idea of sitting down together to discuss spending time with your grandchildren.

Check out our friends and family guide to learn more about how to talk to your friends and family when they’re going through a divorce:

Listen to this episode of The Divorce Podcast as Co-founder of amicable and host Kate Daly is joined by co-parenting coach, Jen Gallagher, to discuss her tips on approaching co-parenting for younger children:

Use a co-parenting app

Co-parenting apps like the amicable co-parenting app can help with communication between separated parents and their extended family. It can also help with shared care arrangements and events so that you and your children are on the same page when it comes to seeing your grandchildren.

Co-parenting Advice Sessions

Parents can use a negotiation service, such as amicable, to help them agree on arrangements, such as how often grandparents can see their grandchildren. They can use a one-off session to talk about this specifically or use the Parenting Plan service to agree on all their co-parenting arrangements and have these documented.

amicable provides co-parenting sessions and negotiation services which can help grandparents and parents alike come to an agreement.

Try mediation

amicable negotiation is more effective than mediation, however, a mediator can also help everyone involved discuss their concerns and find a solution that works for both sides. This ensures that you still get to spend time with your grandchildren. You can find local mediators here.

Try arbitration

Like a mediator, an arbitrator will also help you discuss any issues you may want to raise. However, the arbitration process has a few key differences from mediation.

What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

The main difference is that in mediation, the mediator will help you come to a decision but they will not decide for you, unlike an arbitrator. In this sense, an arbitrator is like your own private judge.

Listen to this episode of The Divorce Podcast as Kate is joined by high skilled and experienced family arbitrator Nadia Beckett to discuss arbitration and separation:

If all else fails, you can apply for a court order:

If you can't agree with both parents, you can ask the court for permission by applying for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) that formalises your right to see your grandchildren.

In order to do this, you must have already set up - and both grandparents and parents have attended - a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (or MIAM). If you’d like to set up a MIAM, you need to contact a local family mediator and ask for one to be set up.

Note: There are some exemptions such as in situations of domestic violence

You will need the mediator who facilitates the MIAM to sign the court forms before you make an application to the court.

If you’ve already attended a MIAM (or you have extenuating circumstances), you can apply for the order by sending a C100 form to the courts. This will cost you £215 for the application fee. You can find out where to send the form here.

If approved, the court will decide where your grandchildren live and who they spend time with, along with any other arrangements. The most important thing for the court is making sure what happens is best for the child.

Even though it's not automatic, there are ways to keep your bond strong with your grandchildren after a divorce. Talking openly as a family, using an online negotiation service like amicable or mediation, and involving the court if necessary can help ensure you maintain an important and loving relationship with your grandchildren. Remember, seeking the right advice can make all the difference.

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