1. What rights do Grandparents have?
Grandparents, currently, do not have any legal rights over their grandchildren. The only people with legal responsibility for a child is their parent, or anyone with the benefit of a court order in their favour, such as a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. If the relationship has broken down between the grandparents and the parents of the child the grandparent would need to seek a court order to see their grandchild. The first step is to seek the court’s permission to make the application. The court’s only concern is the welfare of the child and will only make an order if the court believes it is the best interest of the child.
2. I am their parent, surely it’s my right to have my children half of the time?
Although as a parent you have legal responsibility for your child, this does not mean that you have a “right” to have your child with you half of the time. It is for you as parents to agree on what time your child should be spending with each of you. If you cannot agree the arrangements, then a court would make the decision. The court starts from the point that the child has a right to a relationship with both their parents and will then make an order which is in the child’s best interest.
3. I want to take my children abroad on holiday, surely I can do this?
If you have a Child Arrangements Order in your favour confirming your child should live with you, then you can remove your child from the jurisdiction of England and Wales for 28 days each year. If you do not have an order, then you must obtain the consent of the other parent who holds parental responsibility for the child. If they consent (and you should get this in writing) then you can take your children on holiday abroad. If they will not consent to the holiday, then an application to the court is required and the court would decide whether or not you should take your children abroad on holiday. The likelihood is that the court would consent unless you were proposing travelling to a dangerous country or removing the children from school for a lengthy period of time.
4. Can I stop the other parent moving away with my children?
You cannot stop your former spouse/partner moving away. However, if you have what is called parental responsibility for your children, then you have to consent your children moving. If you do not, an application would need to be lodged with the court by the other parent. The court would then have to consider the benefit of the move and consider whether this is in the best interest of the children. If the move would not impact on the time the children are spending with either parent, the move is likely to be approved.
5. My former partner is not letting me see the children, and is not giving me any information about the children, what can I do?
If you have parental responsibility for the children you are entitled to ask for information about your children from their school or GP direct. If you and your former partner cannot agree on the arrangements for the children, then you would need to make an application to the court asking for an order for the children to spend time with you. The older the children are, the more impact their views will have on the court-ordered arrangements. A 14-year-old’s views have a greater weight than a 5-year-old’s views. This is because of the child’s level of understanding. The court will then make an order based on the child’s best interests.
6. I have had a letter from social services and there is a meeting, what do I do?
If you have received a letter from social services you must not ignore the letter and you must attend any meeting. It may be a meeting to discuss concerns that have arisen and it may be possible to agree a plan with social services that if followed will mean they will close their file. Or it could be a meeting where social services indicate that they have serious concerns about your children and that they want to take court action to consider removing the children from your care. It is important that whatever letter you receive, you immediately take legal advice so you can understand the consequences of the letter.
7. I work long hours, my partner looks after the children, but social services are involved, why?
Your partner may, unfortunately, not be providing a good enough level of care to the children whilst you are at work. This could be for any reason. Social Services will want to discuss the childcare arrangements with you to see if you are able to share the childcare more; what you can do to help your partner or what other action needs to be taken to look after the children properly. You should engage with the social services.
For more information or some preliminary confidential advice, please contact a member of our Family team on 01392 848925 / 848916.