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Children: Grandparents and others who require leave of the court to apply for access

Published Friday, April 29, 2016

This House of Commons library briefing paper explains the processes by which grandparents and others can agree access or residency with a child following, for example, parental separation.

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Applying for access through child arrangements orders

Access for grandparents to their grandchildren should initially be sought through agreement with the parents or carers of the child. However, where this cannot be agreed, the grandparent can seek the leave of the court, and if successful, apply for a child arrangements order to agree access. Child arrangements orders were introduced through the Children and Families Act 2014 (replacing contact and residence orders) and decide where a child lives as well as the contact they have with any person; they principally consider the welfare of the child in any decision.

The process for grandparents and others differs from the process that parents undertake, as grandparents have the additional step of seeking leave of the court first. This additional step is in place “to act as a filter to sift out those applications that are clearly not in the child’s best interests”. The granting of leave does not raise any presumption that the application for a child arrangements order will succeed.

Recent discussion

The Labour Government produced a Green Paper in 2010 setting out an intention to remove the requirement to seek leave of the court. The Family Justice Review was then set up in March 2010 and supported by the Coalition Government when it came into government. The Review reported in November 2011 that “the need for grandparents to apply for leave of the court before making an application for contact should remain. This prevents hopeless or vexatious applications that are not in the interests of the child”. The Government accepted this recommendation and this remained the government position of the Coalition and current Conservative Government.

This policy applies to England and Wales. The arrangements for Scotland are also outlined in this paper.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7574

Author: Chris Murphy

Topics: Child care, Children and families, Divorce, Older people

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