As family breakdown continues to grow in Ireland, child access for grandparents and relatives becomes an increasingly important issue. When a couple with children separate or divorce, it also affects their wider family circle of grandparents and relatives. If, for example, one parent leaves the family home, then his or her relatives may no longer visit regularly. This can have huge emotional consequences for children, their grandparents, aunts and uncles.
The good news is that the law recognises children’s rights to have access to these relatives, after their parents separate or divorce.
Currently, grandparents have the right, independently of their own children, to make application to court for access to their grandchildren. The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 gives relatives like grandparents the right to apply for access to their grandchildren. Read more here.
A grandparent may apply to the local District Court for access to his/her grandchild. In general, the court will check first to see if you have tried to secure this access outside of the courts. It makes sense to try reach agreement less formally outside court first, before resorting to legal means.
If the application goes ahead, the court will base its decision on the best interests of the child. The court will consider the views of the child, where possible, given his/her age and understanding. It will also consider how much access the children already have with the parent they no longer live with. The court will then also assess whether the grandparents can see the children sufficiently within this time.
Courts recognise the valid and important role which grandparents have in the lives of children, and in general will promote this.
In certain situations, grandparents and relatives may also apply for guardianship and/or custody of a child. Certain strict conditions for making such application are laid down by law.
As in all cases involving children, the best interest of the children in making any order will be the paramount consideration. The court will also consider the views of the child where possible given his/her age and understanding. Normally, the court won’t make an order for custody of a child without the consent of the child’s guardians. However, if the court is satisfied that it’s in the best interest of the child, then it can make an order dispensing with consent.
Courts can also make an order for joint custody and specify where the child is to live. If the child does not live with either parent, for any period, the court can specify what access arrangements, if any, are to be put in place.
Sometimes, when a relationship breaks down, relatives may find themselves denied access to the children of the separating couple. This is particularly the case for grandparents whose son or daughter no longer lives in the family home. For grandparents who are used to seeing their grandchildren regularly, this can be a very difficult time.
If your son-in-law/daughter in law refuses to allow you to see your grandchildren, you can seek to address this through mediation or negotiation. In the event that this fails, then you can apply to the court for access. If the court already granted you access, you can apply to have this access upheld.
However, it’s important to note that you do not have a legal right to see your grandchildren until access has been granted by a court.
Certain other relatives may now also apply for access with a child if this is being prevented.
If you need advice or support on any of the issues raised above, you can call Alan on 01 637 6200 or email him at email@example.com
Orpen Franks Solicitors LLP
28 & 30 Burlington Road, Dublin 4, Ireland
Telephone: +353 1 637 6200
Facsimile: +353 1 637 6262