The European Union’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), has confirmed in a recent judgment that grandparents have a legal right to see their grandchildren.
This ruling could potentially speed up proposed changes to UK legislation to remove the “permission” stage that grandparents face to applications for contact with their grandchildren under our current legislation.
The case involved a Bulgarian grandmother struggled to maintain contact with her grandson who, following the divorce of his parents moved to Greece with his father. The grandmother wanted to have contact with her grandson one weekend in a calendar month and between 2-3 weeks per year during the school holidays.
After having no success with the authorities in Greece, the grandmother applied to the Bulgarian courts to adjudicate on the matter. They, however, ruled that they did not have the jurisdiction to hear the matter and that is should be dealt with by the Greek courts. The case eventually reached the ECJ and they highlighted that EU law does not limit access rights solely to parents, it also includes grandparents.
Under the current legislation in the UK, the Children Act 1989, grandparents who are denied contact with their grandchildren have to apply to the Court for permission to even apply for a Child Arrangements Order. S10(9) of the Act sets out a checklist of factors the Court should have regard to when granting permission in such circumstances which includes the grandparents’ connection with the child and any potential risk of disruption to the child’s life. According to recent statistics, in 2016, almost 2,000 grandparents made applications to the Court to have contact with their grandchildren.
The suggested changes to legislation would create a “presumption” that grandparents, uncles and aunts should have contact with their grandchildren, nieces and nephews after their parent’s relationship breakdown. This proposed change has significant support by ministers in the UK and proposals for new laws were discussed earlier this month.
If you would like more legal advice relating to the rights of grandparents in the UK, please contact our Family Law department on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right to arrange a free initial consultation.The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of June 2018.