As a grandparent how can I obtain parental responsibility for my grandchild?
As a grandparent you do not have parental responsibility for your grandchild. The parents would normally have parental responsibility and as a result are able to make the decisions about the day to day care and welfare of the child unless the Court makes an alternative order. Therefore unless you make an application to the Court, or the parents agree, your grandson would need to return to his parents’ home.
To make an application to the Court you would initially need to apply for “leave” which means the right to ask the Court to be heard about this issue. This is normally granted for grandparents when a grandchild is living with them or there is a dispute about where the grandchild would live. In some situations if there are serious welfare concerns about how parents are caring for children, social services can also intervene and this may be an option to consider.
If a court application is made by either you, the parents or social services, when deciding where your grandson should live, the judge will use the welfare checklist set out in the Children Act 1989 to make his or her decisions. This checklist requires consideration of:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child
- The child’s physical emotion and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child if circumstances change as a result of the Court’s decision
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics which would be relevant to the Court’s decision
- Any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering
- The capability of the child’s parents (or any other person the Court may find relative) in meeting the child’s needs
- The powers available to the Court in the given proceedings.
Each case is determined based upon the specific child’s welfare which is paramount. The Court will not make an order unless it is necessary and deemed appropriate.
If an application is made to the Court and social services has been involved with the family they may be asked to write a report having met with all parties concerned including the child. If social services has not been involved, and if the child’s welfare is at risk, it may be that a CAFCASS officer will be appointed to meet with the child, the parties involved and prepare a report to the Court.
Claire Colbert is a Family Law Partner at Freeths LLP. Find out more about mediation, court applications and parental responsibility visit www.freethsoxford.co.uk/children