Access to Grandchildren

An unfortunate feature of many peoples’ lives is to witness the fallout from the breakdown in their child’s relationship with another person.  This can become quite fraught where there are children of the relationship.  In many instances the parents of the children are able to resolve matters between them on their own, or with the assistance of a mediator, or through directions from the court.  Sometimes however, the grandparents’ relationship with the grandchild can be collateral damage in the breakdown of the child’s relationship with the other parent, particularly when that other parent is the primary custodian.

Many grandparents are unaware that there is legal recourse available to them in such circumstances.  Nonetheless, while contacting your solicitor for advice might be a good idea, issuing proceeding should be a last resort.  In the first instance ask your child to include some arrangements for contact between you and your grandchild in the discussions with the estranged partner.  If that is not fruitful then try reaching out to the custodian parent to communicate your wish for Access to your grandchild while being careful not to get embroiled in any matter in dispute between the parents.  It may also be helpful to open or keep open lines of communication with the other grandparents.  If communication is not productive the situation might benefit from the involvement of a mediator who will work to assist the parties in bridging the gaps between them.

Ultimately, in some situations neither communication nor mediation will resolve the situation leaving recourse to the courts as the only remaining option.  As noted, this course of action should be reserved for the most intractable of circumstances.  Taking a party to court will do nothing to improve interpersonal relations with that party and may involve some expense.

Where an application for Access to a child is made by a person other than a parent, the permission of the court to make the application must first be obtained.  This is known as an application for “leave of the court”.  In deciding upon this application the court will consider the applicant’s connection to the child, the risk, if any, of the application disrupting the child’s life to the extent that the child would be harmed by it, and the wishes of the child’s Guardians.  Once this permission has been obtained then the substantive application for Access may be brought.  This mechanism is open to any person who is a relative of the child in question or who has acted in loco parentis to a child (acted in similar standing as that of a parent to the child).

The right of Access, is a right of the child rather than the applicant, and the court will at all times be guided by what is in the child’s best interests and depending on the age and maturity of the child may, and in some circumstances must, give consideration to the wishes of the child.  Giving consideration to the wishes of the child is not the same as acceding to the wishes of the child.  The court may deviate from the wishes of the child where it believes that so doing is in the child’s best interests.  These applications are made pursuant to Section 11B of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1964 (as amended) and may be made in the District Court.  The court may decline the application or grant Access to the child subject to such conditions as the court considers appropriate.

This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by Hammond Good, Solicitors for any action taken in reliance on the information contained therein. Any and all information is subject to change. For further information on the subject, please contact the author, Joyce A. Good Hammond, at