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Grandparents’ rights under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989

Grandparents’ rights under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989

The bond between grandparents and their grandchildren are often profound and contribute significantly to a child’s upbringing. However, when family dynamics shift, grandparents may find themselves wondering what their legal rights are. In the UK, Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 addresses the rights of grandparents in various family law matters.

What does Section 8 do?

Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 acknowledges the importance of maintaining relationships between children and their extended family members, including grandparents. It provides a legal avenue for grandparents to seek the court’s intervention in gaining access or custody rights, especially when parental disputes impact the child’s well-being.

Applications under Section 8

The orders that grandparents can apply for are defined within Section 8. Those orders are child arrangements orders, prohibited steps orders, and specific issue orders. The relevant order to apply for will depend on the circumstances and needs for that child.

In deciding whether to grant the grandparents an order, the court’s paramount consideration is the child’s welfare.

Grandparents must first obtain the leave of the court (permission) if they wish to make an application. This is unless one of the following exceptions apply:

a.     They have a child arrangements order;

b.     The child has already resided with them for at least three years; or

c.     They have the consent of those with parental responsibility (usually the child’s mother or father).

Factors the court will consider

When evaluating a grandparent’s application for orders under Section 8, the court will take into account several factors which include; the nature of the relationship between the grandparent and the child, the nature of the proposed application, and any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that (s)he would be harmed by it. The overarching principle ensures that the child’s best interests remain at the center of any decision.

It should be noted that even if leave of the court is granted, there is no presumption that the court will grant the substantive application. It is therefore important that grandparents seek legal advice from a family law professional to navigate the complexities of the legal process effectively.

Mediation and alternatives

Grandparents are encouraged to explore mediation as a way of resolving disputes before court proceedings are commenced. Mediation enables parties to have open communication and negotiate, with the ultimate goal of reaching an agreement out of court that best serves the child’s welfare. If, however, mediation is unsuccessful, grandparents can proceed with their application for the court to make orders.

Unless an exemption or exception applies, grandparents must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to making an application.


Grandparents’ have rights under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. The act acknowledges the invaluable role grandparents play in a child’s life. While the legal process may seem daunting, the focus remains on the child’s welfare, and the court ensures that the child’s best interests are safeguarded. With proper legal guidance and an understanding of the factors considered by the court, grandparents can navigate the legal provisions to maintain meaningful relationships with their grandchildren.

Speak to an expert

If you need legal advice with child agreements or custody, call us now on 0800 422 0123 or contact us online to discuss your situation with an expert child custody solicitor.

Your key contact

Paige Atherton

Trainee Solicitor

Paige is a Trainee Solicitor in the family law team at our Manchester office. Paige assists clients following the breakdown of a marriage with matters including divorce, settling financial terms and arrangements for children.
View profile for Paige Atherton >

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