There was disappointment when the recent Family Justice Review pulled back from giving additional rights to grandparents. Initial drafts had proposed that one of the barriers to them applying to the courts for greater access to their grandchildren if their own children separate from their partner and they are struggling to maintain a relationship, be removed. However, the final report suggested no such change.
In reality it would have been a very minor victor only but it would have perhaps signalled an intent that things should change – or at least an acknowledgement of the important role that grandparents can play in their offspring’s offspring’s upbringing.
For now though, it remains the case that grandparents have no legal right to see their grandchildren. Of course, the best option all round if you are a grandparent is to do whatever you can to ensure good (or at least constructive) relations are maintained with your own child’s ex. That way it should be possible for all parties involved to keep up a level of contact that is practical for all.
If this is not successful, then you can make an application to the court for permission to apply for contact with the children. This is an extra step that anyone who is not a parent of a child has to make and you will need to satisfy the court that you have a meaningful and important connection with the children in order to be granted permission.
You would then be able to proceed with an application for contact and if you are able to establish that this would be in the children’s best interests, the court would grant you contact. That application is likely to involve a comprehensive report being carried out by a CAFCASS officer (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to look into any welfare issues, to establish what the views of the children are and to look at the concerns of all parties who are involved. That report will make a recommendation to the court as to what action they feel should be taken.
These sorts of applications are potentially complex and difficult to deal with and I would strongly advise you to seek further advice and assistance from a specialist lawyer in respect of handling your application. You may also find that this would be helpful in trying to reach a compromise as it is often easier to achieve this if someone who is one step removed from the situation becomes involved.
The best option all round is to try and maintain a constructive relationship with the estranged family to ensure the grandchildren do get to spend valuable time with their grandparents.