Though they are blood relatives grandparents have no automatic, legal rights or responsibilities to care for their grandchildren. If such rights and responsibilities are desired, however, grandparents do have the option of going through the court and being granted these privileges.
Adopting the children or making them a ward of the court could result in grandparents legally assuming a role in the children’s upbringing, but these are drastic measures.
More commonly grandparents assume legal rights and responsibilities toward their grandchildren through Residence Orders or Parental Responsibility Orders.
If a child has been living with his or her grandparent for three years then the grandparent is able to apply for a Residence Order. A Residence Order establishes that the child is living with the grandparent, and also provides the grandparent with Parental Responsibility for the child.
Depending upon his or her circumstances, the grandparent may also become eligible to be paid allowances for his or her grandchild from the local authority.
If a child has not been living with his or her grandparent for three years the grandparent can still ask the court for permission to apply for a Residence Order.
Parental Responsibility Orders
If a grandparent is awarded a Residence Order for his or her grandchild then the grandparent automatically assumes Parental Responsibility for the child.
However, Parental Responsibility can also be obtained by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with those who already have Parental Responsibility, usually a biological mother and/or father (more than one person can have Parental Responsibility for a child at any given time) or by seeking it from the court.
If Parental Responsibility is granted by the court, it is done so in a Parental Responsibility Order.
Obtaining Parental Responsibility
Whether a grandparent is attempting to be granted a Residence Order or Parental Responsibility Order for their grandchild, most of the time a solicitor is employed to help navigate the legalities of this process. However, obtaining Parental Responsibility can also be done without the aid of a solicitor.
Citizens’ Advice will be able to provide information on these processes, as well as where to find no or low cost legal assistance.
One reader was unable to wait the weeks it would have taken to be seen by a solicitor and decided to take matters into her own hands. She simply obtained copies of necessary forms for applying for a Residence Order (C1, C1A and C2) and filled them in with the help of the court counter clerk.
Upon paying the £350.00 (total) fees, she then lodged the forms. Before her case was heard in court, however, she was able to obtain a free meeting with a solicitor by way of Citizen’s Advice who checked over the application to make sure that she had not missed anything vital.
She also gathered a number of letters of support for her application from families and friend, and sent them via registered post to be filed with her application.
By supplying these letters early, she left plenty of time for the judge to read them before the case was called. In the end, this reader was delighted when her application was successful.