If family circumstances mean that it is not possible for children to live with their parents, or a local authority has decided that the children ought to be taken into care, there is often a strong wish that the children should instead to go to live with a member of their extended family. In this article, Glynis Wainman, family law expert with Hancock Quins Solicitors in Watford, explains the options where grandparents want to put themselves forward as carers.
‘The most usual route for a grandparent who wants their grandchildren to live with them is to apply to the family court for a Child Arrangements Order,’ explains Glynis, ‘This is an order which, if granted, gives grandparents the legal right to have their grandchildren live with them and to be involved in decisions affecting their life, usually until they reach the age of 18. There are other options available, including Special Guardianship Orders or foster care arrangements, and it is important that you take legal advice on the option that is best for you.’
Child Arrangements Orders
As with applications to the court made by grandparents trying to secure the right to see their grandchildren, grandparents who want their grandchildren to live with them will usually first be required to attend a meeting to see if arrangements can be agreed amicably rather than being imposed by a judge. This meeting, known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, is necessary in all cases except those where there is evidence of violence or abuse, or where the matter is otherwise urgent.
In deciding whether to make an order allowing the grandchildren to live with you, the court will have regard to what is known as the ‘welfare checklist’. This puts the welfare needs of your grandchildren at the heart of the decision-making process and takes account of their wants and needs, as well as any other relevant considerations. Regard will also be had to any professional reports that the court has asked to be prepared.
Where care proceedings are being considered by the local authority, and there is therefore a risk that your grandchildren may be placed with foster carers or even put up for adoption if you do not step in, it is important that you make it known to the social worker handling the case that you would be willing to act as carer and that the court is advised of this. When considering what should happen to the children, the court will have regard to the fact that it may be in the children’s best interests to be placed with you rather than a stranger, particularly if you already have a strong and established relationship with them.
If the court decides to make a Child Arrangements Order in your favour, allowing your grandchildren to live with you, decisions may also be taken about the amount of time they should spend with their parents and other members of their extended family and the arrangements needed to facilitate that.
If there are particularly difficult issues that you know are likely to arise, and on which you suspect you and the parents will disagree, then you can also ask the court to make any other orders that are necessary. For example, you can ask for a Specific Issue Order to determine which school your grandchildren ought to attend or a Prohibited Steps Order to stop the parents insisting on certain things happening where you do not believe this to be in your grandchildren’s best interests.
When you have your grandchildren living with you, the cost of bringing them up may be an issue. It is therefore important that you check your entitlement to any financial help with the cost of their care, whether from the government in the form of child benefit or tax credits, or from the local authority in the form of various allowances.
For a confidential discussion about grandparents’ rights, please contact Glynis Wainman on 01923 650862 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.