Grandparent Rights to See Grandchildren after Divorce

Posted on: 7 mins read
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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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Unfortunately as a grandparent in England or Wales, you do not have any automatic legal rights to see your grandchildren if a parent prevents you from seeing them.

However, sometimes Family Courts do recognise the priceless role that a grandparent has to play in a child’s life and it is therefore unlikely that a Court will refuse contact unless it is satisfied that the contact is not in the best interests of the children.

There are steps you can take to spend time with your grandchildren. These are:

  • Informal Arrangements
  • Family Mediation

Apply to the Family Court for a Child Arrangement Order (formerly known as a Contact Order)


Informal Arrangements

Informal family-based arrangements are the preferred option in any case involving the right to see a child as it reduces any tension between individuals that may be picked up on by the child. Additionally, it’s the best way of ensuring that the best interests of the child are always kept at the heart of the matter. 

With an informal arrangement, parental responsibility will remain with the parents typically and these parents can simply delegate any day-to-day decision making to the person who their child is staying with. This could include general decision making such as feeding the child however major decisions would still need to be made by the person or people who have parental responsibilities for that child. 

Examples of major decisions include non-emergency medical treatment, schooling and travel abroad. Parents or those individuals with parental responsibility can decide to end the informal family-based arrangement at any time.

It’s important to note that an informal family-based arrangement is not legally binding and is therefore not enforceable at all.

Family Mediation

Even with the best intentions and the children’s best interests at heart, if an informal family-based agreement is not possible, an independent family mediator can help you and family members work out an agreement.

A mediator will organise a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is designed to find a suitable agreement following separation or divorce and this includes cases where children are involved.

Mediation is not always suitable and various exemptions apply. It is therefore important to take advice in relation to this prior to making your application to mediation.

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Applying to the Family Court for a Child Arrangement Order

A Child Arrangement Order is a type of court order that you may need in order to arrange access and contact with the child in question.

It’s important to note that only people who have Parental Responsibility for a child can automatically apply for a Child Arrangement Order (which was formerly known as a Contact Order).

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent – this is what is known as ‘parental responsibility’.

If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to:

  • provide a home for the child
  • protect and maintain the child

Additionally, if you have parental responsibility, you’re also responsible for:

  • disciplining the child
  • choosing and providing for the child’s education
  • agreeing to the child’s medical treatment
  • naming the child and agreeing to any change of name
  • looking after the child’s property

Regardless of parental responsibility, all parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, even if they do not have any parental responsibility for their child. 

If you have parental responsibility for a child but you do not live with them, it does not mean you have a right to spend time with the child or the children. However, the parents with parental responsibility must include you when making important decisions about their lives.

You do not always need to get the consent of the other individuals with parental responsibility for routine decisions, even if they also have parental responsibility. However, if it’s a major decision (for example, one of you wants to move abroad with the children) everyone with parental responsibility must agree to this in writing.

Typically, a child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth. A child’s father usually has parental responsibility if he’s either married to the child’s mother or listed on the birth certificate (after a certain date, depending on which part of the UK the child was born in). You can apply for parental responsibility if you do not automatically have it.

Before applying to the Family Court, you should exhaust all other options, meaning you should only consider this next step if all attempts at Mediation have failed.

Ordinarily, a person can apply to the Court to get parental responsibility for a child if they are connected to the child. For example, this may include the child’s father, their step-parent or a second female parent. It’s important to note that more than 2 people can actually have parental responsibility for the same child at the same time.

If you’re choosing to go down this route, you’ll need to know that the Court will consider:

  • Your connection with the child
  • The nature of your application for contact with the child
  • Whether your contact will have a harmful effect on the child’s wellbeing in any way

The parents might still object to this, meaning that you will have to attend a full hearing where both parties will have to put forward strong evidence to support their cases.

It’s important that you have expert legal advice in this area especially as it can easily become complicated and confusing. By speaking to one of our Family and Child Law Solicitors you can be advised on how to gather evidence and build a strong case.

You’ll need a strong case too. The Court will expect you to persuade them that you have a meaningful and ongoing relationship with your grandchildren. They’ll need to be convinced that your relationship will significantly benefit them.

With contact being such a sensitive issue, the Court will always put the child first and the Court will consider:

  • The child’s circumstances
  • Whether the making of an order is better for the child than making no Order at all
  • Whether your continuing contact with the child will have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships

How to Apply for a Child Arrangement Order

If you want to apply for a Child Arrangement Order, one of our expert team of Family Lawyers here at Simpson Millar can do this for you, or you’ll need to download and complete the C100 application form which can be found on the UK Government Website.

Once done, send it through to the nearest Family Court. There’ll be a £232 fee and if you do not have any exemption for attending mediation, your Family Mediator must confirm that you both attended mediation meetings and attempted to find a resolution before applying to the Courts.

What Happens Next?

The Child Arrangements Order will decide:

  • Where the child lives
  • Who a child spends time with and when
  • What types of communication should take place between the child and someone named in the Order. For example, this could include face to face contact, telephone calls, emails, social media and text messages.

Our Family and Child Law Solicitors specialise in representing grandparents involved in contact with grandchildren disputes particularly following the parent’s separation. Members of our team are accredited by the Law Society for both Family Law and Child Law matters.

We understand how important it is to keep in contact and spend time with your grandchildren, and we’ll be very happy to help you achieve this.

We offer a variety of options for appointments including telephone and video calls - whatever suits you best. We’re here to support you and make the process as easy as possible for you. You will be fully supported throughout the process in order to take the pressure off you, so that you can take care of yourself. 

To contact one of our expert Family Law and Child Law Solicitors, please call our friendly and helpful team today on 0808 239 3465 who will be more than happy to help. Alternatively, you can request a call back

We appreciate that issues surrounding contact with a child can be difficult and stressful, with emotions often running high. As such, if you find that you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to seek support which can be found through several organisations, some of which are listed below.

  • Samaritans – can be contacted by calling their free helpline on 116 123 or by email at [email protected]. Alternatively, a text service and online chat function is available, further details of which can be found on their website at
  • SANE Line – can be contacted from 4pm until 10pm on 0300 304 7000 or you can request a call back by leaving a voicemail message on 07984 967 708. Further information about their services can be found at
  • NHS England Mental Health Helpline – access to this service and further information can be found at


‘NHS: Urgent Mental Health Helpline’ by NHS (n.d.) ‘Find an urgent mental health helpline’. Available at: (Accessed: 02/12/2023).

‘Samaritans: Contact Information by Samaritans’ (n.d.) Contact Samaritan. Available at: (Accessed: 02/12/2023)

‘SANE: Saneline Services’ by SANE (n.d.) Saneline Services. Available at: (Accessed: 02/12/2023).

UK Government. (n.d.). Contact Grandchild Parents: Divorce or Separate. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

UK Government. (n.d.). Apply for Parental Responsibility. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

UK Government. (n.d.). Who Has Parental Responsibility. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

UK Government. (n.d.). Types of Court Order: Looking After Children in Divorce. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Kinship. (n.d.). Informal Arrangements. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). What is Parental Responsibility? [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). What's the Difference Between a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute? [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). Divorce and Family Home Disputes. [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 20/12/2023).

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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