CHRISTMAS is traditionally a season of giving and sharing; when we spend time with those we love. But what about those people, including grandparents, who are being prevented from seeing their loved ones due to divorce and separation? Associate solicitor Heather Snowdon, from Jacksons Law Firm, gives advice on what to do.

The Northern Echo:

An old proverb says, "it takes a village to raise a child". While society is probably growing further away from the village mentality, there is an argument to say that the whole family is increasingly raising a child.

With millions of busy parents juggling the demands of work and children, grandparents, in particular, are stepping in to help out with childcare. Whether it be school pick-ups, collecting and returning to activities, regular babysitting, or just an occasional sleepover, they are often an integral part of family life.

As a result, the bond children have with their grandparents is often deep and unconditional.

Little wonder then that when parents divorce or separate, the fall-out can be enormous on the wider family, too.

If relationships become strained, it is not unusual for one of the parents to become restrictive when it comes to who the children can see and when.

Many grandparents who find themselves in this situation will be devastated to discover that they are no longer able to spend regular time with their grandchildren. Likewise, this can be very distressing for grandchildren.

If you are suddenly prevented from seeing your grandchildren or family members, the first step is to attempt to negotiate to spend time with them. This may involve your solicitor sending a letter to the other party, asking for arrangements to resume. Separated parents may struggle for childcare and this can offer a huge support.

If it isn’t possible to agree, you can be referred to mediation. This is an opportunity for you to discuss any concerns either party may have, with the intention of finding a way forward.

However, if mediation is unsuccessful, the next step would be an application to court.

Unless a grandchild has lived in your house for 12 months immediately before you apply to court, you will have to apply for permission to see your grandchild. This means that your solicitor will draft a Child Arrangements application, outlining your previous relationship and your request for leave.

The court will direct CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) to carry out enquiries and make a recommendation on whether you should be granted access or not.

If you have the familial link of being a grandparent and a recent relationship with the child, it’s likely the court will allow your application to proceed.

There will be an initial hearing to consider whether matters can be agreed. In some cases, one party may make allegations of potential harm against the other party. Where this happens, CAFCASS may be directed to file a full report and then recommend if and when the child should spend time with their grandparent(s).

If, following this report, the parties are still unable to agree, the case will be listed for final hearing and the court will decide the outcome, considering all relevant circumstances, including the age of the child and any specific needs they may have or risks.

The court will make its decision based on what it believes is in the best interests of the child. The result may not be perfect for either party, but it should be the most ideal option for the child.

The route to court is a last resort and hopefully won’t be required, but you may need the support of a solicitor to help you resume access to your loved ones.”

The Northern Echo:

  • For advice about child arrangements, email Heather Snowdon on or Emma Canham on or telephone 01642-356500.