Grandparents can play an important and positive role in the grandchildren’s life. Certainly during the separation of the parents, they can provide a safe and stable place for the children, where they talk about the divorce and process all the changes.

Choosing sides

However, a divorce can also have a major impact on contact between grandparents and grandchildren. Relationships with the son-in-law or daughter may change. Certainly if the divorce proceeded with many emotions and reproaches and the parents expected that the grandparengs would take sides.

Primary residence

When the children have their primary residence with the son-in-law or daughter-in-law and have little contact with the other parent, it becomes more difficult for the grandparents to maintain good and regular contact. A new partner of the son-in-law or daughter-in-law may also play a role in this. Or a move to another place of residence.

However, grandparents can also play a positive role there. If one of the parents temporarily does not have good contact arrangements with the children, the grandparents can help. Perhaps the parent in question has not yet found a new, child-friendly living space and the children cannot yet stay overnight? Or perhaps the parent in question is temporarily unstable and is not yet entrusted with the care for the children by the other parent and / or the court? In such situations, grandparents can help and also encourage contact between the grandchildren and the parent concerned.

Co-parenting

Sometimes the parents do not want to see each other face-to-face for a while, for example after (alleged) domestic violence and the transfer of the children can be unpleasant. In that case, the grandparents could make the transfer. And of course, even after a divorce for the parents, it is sometimes hard work to combine work with (shared) care for the children. Then it is nice for the children if a familiar face comes in.

Because of the positive role that grandparents have in the grandchildren’s life, it is common in the Netherlands for the parenting plan to include how the contact between the children and other family members, including the grandparents, is maintained after separation and also after the death of one of the parents. Usually, being helpfull is the easiest and most practical way to maintain a relationship with the grandchildren.

Court procedure

But what should grandparents do if they cannot get (enough) contact with the children? There is no statutory right for visiting the grandchildren. The grandparents can go to court to ask for a visitation arrangement with the grandchildren, but the mere fact that they are the grandparents is not enough to get such an arrangement.

Close personal relationship

The grandparents must demonstrate that they are in “close personal relationship” with the grandchild. They must demonstrate that there was structural and regular contact before the divorce. Of course it helps if the grandparents had a regular babysitting day, or if there were very frequent sleepovers. The court only grants the request of the grandparents if he considers this to be in the best interest of the children.

Sometimes the relationship between the parent and the grandparent has become so difficult that imposing a visitation arrangement becomes a burden on the family. With grandparents, too, it may be worth trying mediation. This can be tried before starting a procedure. It is also possible that a procedure is put on hold to try mediation.

For advice on this, please contact one of our lawyers.