Grandparents rights-Grandparents blocked from adopting their granddaughter

Grandparents blocked from adopting their granddaughter

A recent case conducted in the Chelmsford family court has highlighted the longstanding and common misunderstanding that grandparents automatically assume the responsibility of their grandchildren and hold legal rights should their parents be unable to care for them.

In this case the Court ordered that grandparents aged 58 and 70 were too old to care for their daughter’s three year old child.  The grandparents had been left to care for their granddaughter following the child’s mother being sectioned after a series of serious mental health issues.

Shortly after the mother becoming sectioned, a social worker reportedly appeared at the grandparents’ home where they were caring for their granddaughter and removed the child from her home. Following the abrupt removal of the child, the grandparents were unable to have contact with their granddaughter for three consecutive months.

The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was initially handed to foster carers and the forthcoming adoption is due to proceed later this month, unless the grandparents can successfully appeal the matter. If the adoption order succeeds, the grandparents who have been caring unconditionally for their granddaughter since their daughter’s sectioning, will have minimal contact with their granddaughter and only be allowed to write to her twice a year until she reaches 18 years of age.

But the moral question persists: Is it right to remove a child from what one can only presume exists as a happy and loving family environment? The grandfather has described the treatment of the social services and of the Court as ‘wicked’ and it goes without saying that the couple are most likely the best-suited parties to care for this child. The couple are understandably older, however the grandmother is still capable of working and works two days a week in addition to caring for her grandchild.    

The grandparents discovered that their daughter had been approached by social services whilst detained in a mental health institute. She was allegedly persuaded to sign away her parental rights and place her daughter into care with, what they believe, no access to legal representation.

This recent case highlights the importance of making parents and grandparents aware of the lack of rights afforded to grandparents in relation to their grandchildren. So many parents wrongly assume that should anything happen to them, their children will be cared for by their grandparents – this is quite clearly not the case. In this jurisdiction only mothers automatically hold parental responsibility, fathers hold it only if they are named on the birth certificate or married to the mother.  There are ways in which these situations can be guarded against and as a parent, you can make sure that your wishes with regards to you where your children are to live and who they are to be cared for – are noted and taken in to consideration, should you be considered no longer to have capacity to look after them.  As grandparents, you also have rights. If you are a parent or grandparent and concerned about your rights and having your wishes taken in to account, contact one of our specialist family lawyers on 0208 252 7373 to put in place a strategy.

Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor

Pinder Reaux & Associates