Contact is considered the right of the children to see the other members of the family. The children’s welfare is paramount and the Court is obliged to take into account various factors, particularly the children’s wishes and feelings and if they are old enough to express them.
The Court will also consider:
- The children’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect of any change in their circumstances
- The age, sex and background of the children
- Any risk of harm to the children
Generally the Courts believe that it is in the children’s best interests to maintain contact with both sides of the family.
Before the Court will consider any application you must apply to see a mediator to see whether or not the other parties will attend a meeting with you to discuss the matters. The mediator will not take sides but will help you to have a sensible conversation about the issues between you. If the other party does not attend or feel that mediation is unsuitable a form will be sent to us which we will exhibit to your application within Court proceedings should we then deem that is necessary.
Unlike parents, grandparents do not have an automatic right to apply for a contact order.
If you have been denied contact with your grandchildren we can help you to make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangement order. However, because you are not a parent of the children first, you will have to make an application for leave i.e. permission of the Court, to file your application.
The purpose for this is to ensure that only well founded applications of third parties are allowed to proceed. In deciding whether or not to grant leave the Court will take into account:
- The nature of the application
- Your connection with the children
- Any risk that there might be of any proposed application disrupting the children’s life to such an extent that they would be harmed by it
If the Court grants leave then we can file the main application and there would be a second appointment before the Court. The second appointment is called a directions appointment and the Court will consider whether the application is likely to be contested and whether the Court should request a report from CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service), an organisation linked to the Court. This will include a schedule 2 report to ensure there are no immediate safeguarding concerns.
If the matter cannot be settled there will be a final hearing before the Court at which the Court will consider the issues.
How long will it take?
Unfortunately the Court process is slow. If CAFCASS are directed to fill a report, this can take 10-12 weeks to prepare their report and the entire case may take 6 months if the matter has to proceed to a fully contested hearing. If no CAFCASS receipt is ordered and the schedule 2 report has been filed then it will be a case of a statement being prepared and the matter listed for an issues resolution final hearing.W