Grandparents, aunts and uncles all play an important role in family life. But when it comes to court cases, members of the wider family may not be automatically entitled to get involved or to make their own applications.
Broadly speaking, the people entitled to apply for a contact or residence order (or, as they are now called, a
spend time with and a
live with Child Arrangements Order) include the following:
If someone doesn’t fall within these categories then they will need to ask the court for permission to apply for a CAO.
If you want to seek the court’s permission to make an application download the C2 form.
When a marriage breaks down the parties may not be able to agree how to divide their property. They may then decide to go to court in order to resolve their dispute.
But grandparents and other family members may have a part to play. It might be, for example, that grandparents helped buy the family home for the couple. Or perhaps they helped the couple clear some debts when times were hard. Now that divorce is on the cards, the grandparents or other family members might want their money back.
The court recognises that this is a possibility and has the power to add family members as parties to the case. It will add a party if it is desirable to do so in order that the court can resolve the dispute between the spouses.
The procedure is fairly straightforward: anyone wanting to join the case must prepare a statement setting out why they should be allowed to get involved.
It is very important to note that in most family cases each party pays for their own legal costs and not those of the other side. This may not apply when someone has been added to a case. If that person loses then there is a risk that he or she will be ordered to pay the legal costs of the successful party. On the other hand, if a person who has been added to a case succeeds at the final hearing, then the losing party may be ordered to pay his costs.
When unmarried couples separate they may not be able to agree what should happen to the family home. As with married couples, it may be that grandparents or other family members gave them a leg-up when the property was bought. Now that the couple have separated, the grandparents may want their money back. To do so, they will need to persuade the court that they have an interest in the property. In practice, that means showing that the money was not a gift, but was intended and agreed to give the grandparents a share in the home.
If the grandparents (or some other family member) suggest that they have such an interest then they may go to court themselves, or involve themselves in a case brought by the cohabitants.
Once again, it is important to bear in mind that in cases of this sort the court will probably order that the person who loses should pay the legal costs of the person who wins.
When considering whether or not to allow someone to apply for an order, the court will have in mind the following factors:
The court will also consider how strong the case is likely to be. Obviously it wouldn’t make sense for someone to be allowed to apply for an order if their case is very likely to fail at the final hearing.
But generally speaking the court recognises that members of the wider family can play an important role in a child’s life. That being so, an application which is at least arguable will usually be allowed to proceed to a final hearing.