Getting leave to apply to make an application for contact
Grandparents, at present, still have to apply to the court for permission to make an application for any
To apply for permission to make an application for contact:
1. Go to your Family Proceedings Court, which is part of your local court. It usually has a separate entrance.
2. Ask the duty clerk for the form that asks for the permission. The clerk might be willing to help you fill it in, so it’s worth asking.
You don't need a solicitor to fill in this first application form, but one might be helpful for the next one.
Before applying for contact
When you receive permission to apply for contact, the clerk at the Family Proceedings Court will tell you how to proceed.
It's important to think about how much contact is reasonable for you to ask for and whether this is practical and sensible for all parties. To help work this out, you should write down your answers to the questions below because the court/magistrate needs to have facts (see below) about these items before they'll make a decision. Writing down your answers and discussing them with your partner (if you have one) and/or one of the parents (if they're supporting your application) will ensure that you're clear in your own mind about what you want.
What are your answers to these questions?
• Why has contact been refused to you?
• When did you last see your grandchildren?
• How much contact did you have before it was stopped?
• Have there been court orders in the past?
• Are there any applications pending?
• Have there been any allegations of violence or abuse?
Facts are events and other things that, because they can be shown to have happened or to exist, cannot be disputed.
Examples include: the date of a missed appointment that was written your diary, the name of the school your grandchild goes to, the date when their tonsils were taken out, what you had for breakfast.
Facts are not: opinions, plans, conversations that have not been recorded and witnessed, guessed-at dates, approximate times and places.
Some facts can be disputed, and these are what the court has to decide on after looking at the supporting evidence. When it decides what the truth is, it will then decide what is best for your grandchild, based on the facts before it.
If you tell the court what you think is a fact, you'll need supporting evidence. Here are some examples of the supporting evidence often used in these applications:
• letter from your GP saying that you are fit enough to look after your grandchild
• letters from neighbours who have seen that your grandchild has been happy when they've been with you
• letter from your grandchild’s school to say that they were sick, missed school, came late, arrived in dirty clothes, etc.
What sort of contact is reasonable to ask for?
It's very important that you think about your future and the future of your grandchild. Your seeking contact may be dependent on your age and that of the grandchild – for instance, you may feel that it would be better to wait for contact until they're older.
One key issue that worries grandparents is that the parents who have custody of their grandchildren will make the children’s life hell if they're forced to visit their grandparents. In this situation, you could decide that telephone contact would be safer for your grandchild.
Local authority involvement
Are social services involved with the family in any way? They're good to have on your side as they have to consider family members as potential carers, even on a temporary basis. You might have to go to see a social worker to ask for advice.
The law: Get help with legal issues via the court – the clerks in the court are good contacts.
Welfare: Contact the local authority that covers where your grandchild lives. The social care department can help you with questions regarding their welfare.
Education: Contact your grandchild’s school. If this is impossible, try the local authority’s education welfare services.
Medical: If possible, ask the GP who would be involved with your grandchild, should they come to be with you, if they can be taken on by the practice and, if they can, get a letter from the GP to verify this.
Everyone who goes to court finds it a daunting experience, here are some tips that might help you prepare:
• What you wear can make a difference. Tidy and formal – but not too formal – is about right. A suit and tie for men, covered arms and nothing low cut for woman is some of the advice given.
• Visit the court before your application is heard, in order to get your bearings.
• Make sure you have all your documents clearly organised. Bring a note pad and pen.
• On the day, arrive at least 30 minutes early to give yourself plenty of time to find the courtroom (if you haven't already visited it). If you have any problems finding the right one, ask the staff at the court.
• Always ask for advice
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