The recent case of a couple blocked from adopting their toddler granddaughter has highlighted the struggles faced by increasing numbers of grandparents.
Hannah Nicholls, a solicitor with West Midlands law firm Higgs & Sons who specialises in cases involving children, said that although the welfare of the child is paramount, these kinds of cases are becoming far too frequent.
The story making headlines centred around a three year old girl looked after by her grandparents over the last six months while her mother was ill. Rather than allowing the grandparents to adopt her, the local authority instead put the toddler up for adoption.
Hannah Nicholls said: “It seems a shame that the approach appears to be to place the child with a stranger as opposed to her grandparents, who she is already familiar with and with whom she has a stable, loving relationship.
“The fundamental point that grandparents play a vital role in a child’s life appears to have been completely missed.”
But she added that the point is one that is normally recognised by the court.
“If a grandparent finds themselves in a position whereby they are denied spending time with their grandchild or they want to have full time care of their grandchild in situations whereby their parents are unable to care for them, they can make an application to the Court for a ‘Child Arrangements Order’.
“This will set out how much time they are able to spend with their grandchild and can include other forms of contact such as writing or talking on the phone. If asking the court to make an order for the child to live with them, this can also be set out in the order.”
Any grandparent seeking an application must first apply to the court for ‘permission’ to make their application for a Child Arrangements order.
But warned Hannah: “Prior to making an application to the court it is advisable to seek specialist legal advice as court proceedings really should be a last resort.”
Hannah is a volunteer for the Grandparents Association, a national charity offering support for grandparents who have lost contact with their grandchildren or who would like full time care of them. The charity can provide useful support alongside or independent of legal advice. She also hosts a support group for grandparents on the last Thursday of each month at the Kingswinford Community Centre, West Midlands.
Higgs & Sons is an award-winning law firm, employing more than 200 people and based in prestigious offices in Brierley Hill. Recognised nationally and across the Midlands, Higgs & Sons is proud of its heritage and reputation for consistently delivering exceptional standards of service.