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Grandparents Rights - court proceedings

(55 Posts)
luckz666 Mon 11-Nov-13 07:20:03

Me and my fiance have a 18 month old son and have just received court proceedings from his mum (our sons grandmother) for a defined contact order.we have not spoken to her in 12 years as she caused a lot of trouble in the early part of our relationship.when we had our son she then pushed letters through my parents door where i lived demanding she saw him.i am not entitled to legal aid and cant afford a solicitor so will be representing ourselves in court.Any ideas what to expect or what to do! Im am terrified!

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Mon 11-Nov-13 08:53:08

Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will be along to advise but my understanding is that grandparents have no automatic rights and it would be strange for courts to order access if there was no prior relationship.

If you search through the legal topic you will find similar stories which should hopefully give you comfort.

Good luck.

Strumpetron Mon 11-Nov-13 08:54:03

Watching with interest. Hope someone knowledgeable comes soon

tiredoutgran Mon 11-Nov-13 11:13:00

She has no defined rights and, if she has had no contact with the child up to now, it is very unlikely she will be successful. Do some googling and find out how to get a Mackenzie (sp) Friend to go to Court with you, these are (usually) legally trained bods who will sit and advise you through the proceedings but cannot speak for you. Family Courts are, IME, held in smaller court rooms and tend to be more informal, the Judge will make allowances for the fact that you do not know the protocol.

BarbarianMum Mon 11-Nov-13 11:43:24

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer.

However, are you in the UK?

If you are, please don't worry. No court is going to insist your child has contact from a grandparent they don't know, esp. one whose own child has no contact with them and who doesn't want their parent involved in their child's upbringing.

The only cases I've heard of where grandparents have been awarded access is when they've played a significant role in their grandchildren's life then this has stopped (due to divorce/death of the in-common parent).

prh47bridge Mon 11-Nov-13 11:51:48

these are (usually) legally trained bods

McKenzie friends are not required to have any legal training. Many of them don't.

Grandparents have to start by applying for leave to apply for contact. Even if the grandmother in this case get past that hurdle it is very unlikely she would get a contact order in this situation.

luckz666 Mon 11-Nov-13 11:53:16

Yes,I am in the Uk.
I have everything crossed that she isnt granted anything.
Since the letter im hardly sleeping as I am so worried.
I know what this woman is like and dont want her anywhere near our son.
Any other advice or info would be really appreciated.

luckz666 Mon 11-Nov-13 11:54:44

Does this mean she has applied for leave and been granted it already as the letters I have receieved are from the court.

tiredoutgran Mon 11-Nov-13 18:46:57

prh47bridge - thanks for that, I understood that many of them were solicitors who provided this service pro bono, happy to be corrected smile

OP, if you have any doubts about the process speak to the Court, they will advise you.

luckz666 Mon 11-Nov-13 19:56:34

Any more advice or information would b gratefully received

InterPolly Mon 11-Nov-13 21:36:41

England and Scotland are two entirely separate legal systems - which country are you in?

luckz666 Tue 12-Nov-13 05:02:53

England

prh47bridge Tue 12-Nov-13 09:10:51

Does this mean she has applied for leave and been granted it already

Without seeing the letters I don't know. The court can grant leave without a hearing but normally there will be a hearing to consider the application and you would be notified of that hearing.

Collaborate Tue 12-Nov-13 12:56:09

Leave wouldn't be granted without a hearing. You have nothing to lose by objecting to leave.

lostdad Tue 12-Nov-13 13:23:26

To the OP - is there no way you can come to an agreement that avoids court? I can appreciate what you're saying but please explore other avenues.

Ask her for her proposals. If you think they're too much tell her. If you can't do this without arguing consider mediation. People often get into a `bunker mentality' that leads down a slippery slope into all out `war' (aka a court case) without trying to resolve things amicably.

Maybe ask her to write to allow her to visit or meet up for an hour in a neutral venue. She may be a lousy mother to your OH buy possibly a decent grandmother to your DS?

I know it's hard and I have personal experience. Despite my long and nasty case I proposed mediation in an effort to resolve matters amicably and you should always do your best to achieve this.

BTW - a McKenzie Friend is not the same as a solicitor. They do not have to be legally qualified, cannot litigate on your behalf and do not have automatic rights of audience. Some of them work pro bono as some lawyers do, others charge. And like lawyers they range from bloody awful to good. Always get references, always research, always use someone you are happy with.

karmakameleon Tue 12-Nov-13 16:38:00

We had a similar situation with my mother applying for leave to apply for contact with my son. Like you, we had denied her contact after a number of abusive letters, emails and texts and various other forms of harassment.

We sought advice from a solicitor and were told to apply for a non-molestation order to stop the harassment, which we did. This was heard at the same time as the application for leave to apply for contact, which we objected to. In the end we were granted our non-molestation order and my mother withdrew her application.

Bit of a brain dump but hopefully some of these things may be useful.

- Does your MIL have representation? If not, it is possible that she has made the wrong application. Our solicitor was surprised that my mother had completed the right forms given that she was representing herself.

- Keep all the evidence of harassment that you have suffered and be prepared to present it to court. This helped us greatly as the judge saw straight through her. I wouldn't recommend that you use mediation if she has been abusive as it probably won't be very productive. My mother was very keen to use mediation and when we spoke to the CAFCASS officer he was in complete denial about my mother's behaviour, despite the obvious evidence, so we knew that it would be useless. I suspect that we would have been under immense pressure to give contact if we had gone down this path and my mother's difficult behaviour would have continued.

- Grandparents only tend to get contact if they can demonstrate an ongoing relationship with the child or if they may add something to the child's upbringing that they could not get elsewhere. In our case, I am not British in origin and my mother made a case that only with her input could my son develop a full sense of cultural awareness. We countered this by demonstrating that he had a strong relationship with my extended family, including all my mother's siblings, and that would help build his cultural understanding. She also played upon the small amount of contact she had with him when he was a newborn and we were trying to build a relationship. We stressed that this had been a difficult time for us due to her unreasonable behaviour and we had cut contact short due to the abuse.

- We had two hearings. The first was a half hour directions hearing (apologies if I'm getting the terminology wrong) and where the judge gave directions to have a proper hearing at a later date. The second was booked in for a half day but the full time wasn't needed as my mother withdrew her application. We were required to put forward a statement to support our application for a non-molestation order and rebut the application for leave for contact. This just listed all the abuse (with some of the letters etc attached as exhibits) and detailed the lack of previous contact and relationships with other family members to demonstrate that my son was not being cut off from a significant part of his family. My mother also gave a statement and hers focussed on her previous relationship with him and the cultural input she could give.

- If you can afford some help but only have limited funds it may be worth looking at a direct access barrister. If you do this you will have to complete and submit all the court papers but they will be there on the day to advise and represent you. The other alternative may be to get a solicitor to help complete forms but you represent yourselves on the day.

Sorry for the information overload but hopefully it's been useful to you.

Good luck.

karmakameleon Tue 12-Nov-13 16:46:32

Sorry, couple more thoughts.

- Our solicitor asked us often if we were prepared to consider indirect contact, ie let me mother send cards, gifts and write to my son. I was very much against this as even seeing an envelope with her handwrting on upsets me and although DH could deal with it, I felt that there was a strong possibility that the messages could become toxic and wanted to shield my son. Eventually we did offer to send photos a few times a year so that we could control the contact and do it on our terms. She is not allowed to write to him.

- Finally, it is important to present your case in terms of what is in your son's best interests. It is not good for him to have parents that stressed because they are forced to endure a difficult relationship with his grandmother and subjected to harassment from her. It is also not in his interests to have a relationship with an individual that has subjected her own son to abusive behaviour.

luckz666 Tue 12-Nov-13 19:57:31

Wow! Thank you karmakameleon for that information.
It totally infuriates me what she is trying to do.
she has never been a role model mother for my partner as has put so many men priority as a child (after her and my partners dad)divorced.He has a terrible upbringing and was kicked out by her at 13.
He tried to work things out and they were on speaking terms until 12 years ago.
she had tried to split up our relationship and involved my family,this is when we cut all ties.
she had split up my partners previous relationship because of this and he was adament she wasnt going to do it again
we have had no contact what so ever until our son was born when she demanded we took him to see her.
she harrased my mum and dad by posting letters through and shouting abuse through their door. My dad is ill and on palative care.
she has had no contact what so ever with our son but has spread rumours stating we have had money off her and turning tables making it look like were there bad ones.
I am totally terrified of going to court!

luckz666 Tue 12-Nov-13 19:58:46

Yes she has representation and has stated in a c100 form that she has had no contact.

karmakameleon Tue 12-Nov-13 21:41:54

She sounds dreadful! I know how worrying it is, and I really stressed about it at the time, but it was ok in the end as although we had to go through the formal process, our reasons for denying contact were good and the judge saw that.

Did you keep the letters that she posted to your mum and dad? Would you or they consider going to the police and reporting the harassment?

Also does she say what type of contact she would like? My mother wanted to have DS overnight which was always going to be a non starter for a small baby who didn't even know her.

luckz666 Tue 12-Nov-13 21:47:00

Yes we have the letters and on the form it states a defined contact order.
its been around a year ago when she was posting the letters etc and i feel her solicitor advised her to stop hence we having no more.
My partner has had to build up his life from scratch after the effects she has had on him and I know that in time a slight amount of contact (although I wont agree with that) would never be enough. She would end up demanding more and more!
I really do appreciate your help! smile

luckz666 Tue 12-Nov-13 21:49:22

I dont see how it would work with us not talking to her and our son having a relationship. He is only 18 months but as he grows older it will obviously cause issues between us and him.
We have a perfect little family at the moment and dont want it being broken because of her.

karmakameleon Wed 13-Nov-13 11:00:24

I had similar issues with how contact could work if she wasn't talking to us but wanted to see our son. How could it even work on a practical level as she would need to speak to us to arrange contact.

Initially my mother was representing herself so was completely unreasonable in terms of the contact she wanted (overnights and skype even though he was a baby). By the 2nd hearing she had a barrister and he suggested contact through a contact centre but I felt that he was just chancing it. The real negotiation was around indirect contact.

My advice would be to be clear what you are willing to give. We knew that our hard line was that she could send DS a bday card, xmas card and possibly a gift of nominal value. We did not need to offer this though as in the end she accepted our offer to send photos.

With regards to the harassment, she may not have sent anything directly to your or your parents for a year but it sounds like she is bad mouthing you to others. Again my mother did similar, stopping the direct harassment when court proceeding began but continuing to spread lies about us to others. We had evidence of this and used this to prove that the harassment was ongoing although not direct.

Finally make sure that you express everything in terms of what is best for your son and not in terms of what she has done to you and your feelings. Your feelings are only important in so far that the stress she places you under is bound to affect your son. You need to be clear that she has nothing to offer your son that he could not get from you or his other grandparents and no ongoing relationship with him to foster. She is likely to do considerable harm to him in the long term if allowed to have a relationship with him and your only objective is to protect him from this.

Hope it goes well for you.

luckz666 Wed 13-Nov-13 16:03:26

Thanks again x

luckz666 Thu 14-Nov-13 18:49:50

Today I recieved a letter from cafcass asking for me to call them so i could provide them with my phone number. I did so and was told a cafcass officer would call a week before the court date to discuss things.
any idea what this phone call will include and what i should disclose.

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