LEGAL EAGLE: I want to see my granddaughter

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My son and his ex-girlfriend have a daughter together who is five years old. Recently my son passed away and now his ex-girlfriend will not let me see my granddaughter. I previously had contact with her four to five times per week as she lives about 10 minutes away from me. I have tried to speak to my granddaughter’s mother about this situation but she will not listen. Is there anything I can do legally to re-establish this contact?

In situations like this, a Child Arrangements Order can be applied for under s8 of the Children Act 1989.  

You may have heard of these Orders before when they were known as Residence and Contact Orders. Child Arrangement Orders combine these previous Orders and are similar in effect. A Child Arrangement Order for contact would determine the future contact arrangements between you and your granddaughter.

It is possible for a grandparent to apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order in respect of a grandchild, however there is a process which must be followed.

Firstly, it is now a legal requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before applying to the court in certain family proceedings to see if mediation is a suitable method of resolving the issue. This will be a meeting between a mediator, yourself and your granddaughter’s mother to give you information on mediation and if it would be a suitable alternative to making a Court application. If it is, this will involve talking through the issues and trying to come to an agreement. If mediation is not considered appropriate, you will be free to continue your application.

A grandparent cannot automatically apply for a Child Arrangements Order so the next step in the process is to apply to the Court for permission to bring this application. The Court will take into account a number of factors when deciding whether to grant permission.

If permission is granted, a Child Arrangements Order can then be applied for. This will involve submitting an application to Court and attending what is likely to be a number of Court hearings where the Judge involved in the case will hear evidence from all parties and decide whether an Order should be made. When deciding whether an Order should be made, the welfare of the child concerned is the number one consideration of the Court.

If you require advice concerning this procedure or any of the applications involved, please contact a solicitor for independent legal advice.