This week sees national cousin’s day and national aunt and uncle day. The very fact that they have their own national day recognises the important role they have in children’s lives. However, what if you are an adult extended family member and you are excluded from children’s lives? Maybe you are being stopped from having contact with them? This article is to provide some useful information about what you can do.
Even though we are talking about cousins, aunts and uncles here, the information provided applies to other family members such as grandparents too. The guidance in this articles also applies to others who are looking to have contact with children, or in more serious situations, where they are seeking to look after children.
The first step is to approach the parents and see if an agreement can be reached. Family arrangements are always much better because they are less stressful. A tip I would offer is to try to get the parents to think why the child (not you) is missing out. This will help cut out any adult issues. If you do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, maybe enlist the help of someone else such as another family member who you both trust and who can remain neutral. Alternatively, try someone completely independent such as a mediator to act as a ‘go between.’ If you end up having to go to Court, then you normally have to attempted mediation anyway.
If negotiation doesn’t work or maybe breaks down, then extended family members will normally have to apply for ‘leave.’ This is another word for ‘permission’ from the court for a child arrangements order.
When deciding whether or not you should be granted ‘leave’ a court will be looking at things such as your connection with the child, the views of the parents and whether your application would disrupt the child.
Assuming you get ‘leave’ the court will then consider whether your application for contact or for the child to live with you. At the heart of this decision will be ‘what is in the child’s best interests?’
The good news is that the courts are increasingly recognising the role of extended family members in children’s lives, which is a good sign. Better health and longer life expectancy means that extended families are spending more time with children as they grow up. Therefore, the role of extended family members is only going to become more important.
I hope that this article has helped. If you are an extended family member and feel excluded, we can offer you some advice. Maybe you miss spending time with a child or maybe you are currently looking after a child and do not think it is safe for the child to return to their parents? Whatever the reason if you have any more questions, please call me Imran Khodabocus on 01392 284 851 for appointments in Exeter or 01823 785070 for appointments in Taunton. We can assess you for legal aid and in some emergency situations, grant you legal aid in our initial meeting. Even if you don’t qualify, your initial appointment is always free. Please don’t forget I can see you in Exeter or in our office in Taunton.