The breakdown of a family unit can have a devastating effect on a child’s relationship with extended family members, including grandparents. When this happens, legal advice from family law experts can help ensure that you maintain a relationship with your grandchildren.
At Lupton Fawcett, our expert solicitors understand that not being allowed to spend time with your grandchild can be a very emotional, stressful and difficult time. We can provide premium advice on how to apply for an order, consider alternative ways to resolve matters, as well as providing legal representation throughout the process. Our aim is always to resolve these cases as quickly and effectively as possible; after all, if it benefits your grandchildren, we will do everything we can to help you.
If you are a grandparent wishing to talk to one of our lawyers about applying for an order, or want to know more about your rights, get in touch with our Yorkshire-based team today by calling our Leeds, York or Sheffield offices on 0333 323 5292, by sending us an email or by filling out our enquiry form and letting us know a suitable time to call you back.
We have a wide range of executives who can deal with your enquiry.
Our family law solicitors understand that no two situations are the same when it comes to matters involving family life, which is why we will tailor our approach to suit your needs. Our family law team has been awarded the Quality Mark and are members of the Law Society’s Children Panel.
Furthermore, as members of Resolution (http://www.resolution.org.uk/), we aim to resolve all matters without animosity so the best solution can be reached for all involved. We will take the time to explain the complicated legal processes so you have a full understanding of your options and what lies ahead of you. From the very start, you will deal with the same solicitor who will provide regular updates of your case’s progress, as well as offering expert guidance as and when you need it.
When Can a Child Arrangements Order Be Made?
Where arrangements cannot be reached to maintain a relationship with your grandchild through mediation, under the Children Act 1989 you can apply to the court for an order enabling you to spend time with your grandchild, or in some circumstances apply for an order that the child live with you. We can also advise you about applying for a Special Guardianship Order.
For a grandparent to apply for a Child Arrangements order, the court must give permission before an application is made. Once permission has been given, the court will decide, without delay, whether a relationship with a grandparent is within the best interests of the child. There are some very clear principles set out in a welfare checklist which the court must apply when deciding these kinds of cases. These are:
- the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
- their physical, emotional and educational needs;
- the likely effect on them of any change in circumstances;
- their age, sex, background and any characteristics of which the court considers relevant;
- any harm which they have suffered or at risk of suffering;
- how capable each of their parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting their needs;
- the range of powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989 and the proceedings in question.
Making an Application for a Child Arrangements Order
In the majority of cases, the court will not issue an application unless there has first been a referral to family mediation. If a child arrangements order is applied for, the court will try to keep the procedure as simple and informal as possible.
Once the application and supporting papers have been filed, the court will issue the proceedings and the papers will then be served on the other parties. Before the substantive application can proceed, the court will need to deal with a preliminary application as to whether your application has reasonable prospects of success.
It will also fix a date for a First Hearing Dispute Resolute Appointment (FHDRA) with the aim of resolving the dispute at this hearing wherever possible.
In addition, the court will send a copy of the application to CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) and a CAFCASS officer will interview the parties by telephone ahead of the first hearing as well as carry out police checks in respect of both of the parties. A report, known as the Schedule 2 Report, will then be prepared ahead of the first hearing. The purpose of this report is to inform the court of the parties’ positions and to recommend a way forward.
Throughout the process, the court adopts a number of important principles:
- there must always be a clear focus on the child;
- children need to, and have a right to, enjoy relationships with both parents and members of extended families;
- children need safety and have the right to be kept safe;
- children need opportunities to be consulted and to be heard when decisions are made about them;
- agreement should be encouraged;
- delay must be minimised;
- the court will only make an order if necessary to promote the welfare of the child.
How Long Will Proceedings Take?
The FHDRA is usually expected to last between 1 and 1.5 hours, but it is better to make sure that you are available for the whole morning or afternoon of the first hearing. Due to the sensitive nature of such cases, the hearings are held in private and members of the public are therefore excluded.
If an agreement has been reached following the first hearing, the court may make orders recording the agreement but will otherwise decide how the matter is to proceed.
If there is no agreement the court may ask a children and family reporter from CAFCASS to write a full report. This will mean meeting the parties (and sometimes the children) to talk about the problems and recommending the best way forward. The recommendation of the children and family reporter is very influential, so it is important to engage and co-operate with whoever is appointed.
A report normally takes about 12 to 14 weeks to be prepared and the court will arrange another directions appointment after everyone has had a chance to read it. Again the court will make orders if agreement is reached at this stage but otherwise it will probably give directions for a full hearing. This will almost certainly involve all parties filing and serving statements setting out their side of the matter.
Contact Us for Help
This information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances from our family law solicitors. For an initial discussion on the specific details of your case, contact our solicitors today by using the details below.
Get in Touch
With Lupton Fawcett on your side, you're taking control. Contact us today.