There may come a time when as a grandparent or stepparent, you need to know more about your legal rights because of fractious relationships in your family. If you are unsure of your legal rights as a grandparent or stepparent, it is important to seek legal advice so you are clear on what you can and cannot do.
At Thompson Family Law, our team of solicitors can advise you on the right course of action based on your circumstances. We have many years of experience in successfully handling various types of cases regarding the parental rights of grandparents, grandchildren and stepparents/stepchildren.
As a grandparent, it is only natural that you will want to play a big part in the lives of your grandchildren. It may however be surprising to hear that as a grandparent, you do not have any legally automatic rights to access or contact with your grandchildren.
If an agreement for contact with your grandchildren cannot be negotiated and family relationships have become problematic, then it may be necessary to raise an application with the Sheriff Court. You can apply to a court for a residence or contact order under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The court will consider the child's welfare and make this the most important factor when making its decision.
Seeking a court judgement must always be a last resort, and it is important to try to communicate with the child's parents first to arrange contact on good terms.
When such an order is presented to a court, the court will examine why the parents of the child made the decision to either limit or disallow contact with you as a grandparent, and will use this to make their decision. In addition, new legislation means that courts must now consider a child's relationships with other relatives. The court may grant an order if as a grandparent you play an important role in your grandchildren's lives.
A court will only make an order if it believes that life will be better for the child if an order is made. Depending on the age of the child, the court may also ask the child for their opinions on the situation. If the parents do not comply with the order, they can face a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.
As a result of marriages breaking down, relationships involving stepchildren and stepparents are becoming more common, and their importance should not be underestimated. There is, at present, no agreement or legislation governing the roles of stepparents in the eyes of the law in Scotland, and stepparents have no legal rights in regard to their stepchildren.
After separation however, a stepparent, in the same way as a biological parent, can apply to court for parental rights so that they can keep contact with their stepchildren. Any person can apply to the court in this way under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. The court must determine that any ruling would be in the best interests of the child. A close relationship with the child would also need to be proven on the count of the stepparent.
Many stepchildren become as close to their stepparents as they do their natural parents. If you need help applying to court for access to your stepchildren, our legal team at Thompson Family Law can advise you on the best course of action while making your application as robust as possible.
Whether you are a grandparent or stepparent looking for access to your grandchildren/stepchildren, or want to make an application to court for a child to live with you, our experienced team of family lawyers have been successful in helping many people get the results they need for their loved ones. We offer personalised advice and support for your case, talk you through your options and handle any complex paperwork on your behalf. Contact us on 0141 404 6575, or get in touch through our online form.