This is a very common problem and it can cause real anguish for all concerned. When feelings run high it can be hard for the wider family to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of a complex divorce and grandparents can often face being excluded from the lives of their grandchildren. As well as facing their own loss, it can be worrying for the older generation to see grandchildren struggling with their parents’ split, when they are keen to offer them support and a calm haven.
It is important for grandparents to approach their son or daughter-in-law in a calm, kind and non-judgmental way. It may be that the stress of the divorce, and the resulting practical issues, have got on top of them. Offer yourselves as helpers who can give support in caring for the grandchildren.
Keep a detailed record of any contact with your daughter-in-law or son-in-law and of what was said, as well as keeping a note of any time that you are able to spend with grandchildren, in the event that you need to refer to it in possible court proceedings.
If this approach doesn’t work, the family might be open to mediation. The Mediation Inform-ation and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) can help families co-operate in cases like these and is less expensive and less traumatic than going to court.
The last resort is for grandparents to apply to the family court for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO) Under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
Because grandparents don’t have parental responsibility for grandchildren, they will need permission from the court to proceed with the application. In deciding this, the court will look at the nature of the application, a grandparent’s connection with the child and any risk there might be to your grandchild if the application progresses. If the court is happy to hear your case it will do all it can to resolve it.
Although there is no presumption in law that grandparents have a legal right to contact with grandchildren, a court will consider what is in the child’s best interests. Courts consider that grandparents often play an important role in a child’s upbringing.
For tailored advice contact Philippa on: 01792 525 409 or email: Philippa.firstname.lastname@example.org
Philippa Buckland is an Associate Solicitor in Family Law at JCP Solicitors, based in Swansea. A specialist Family Solicitor for 25 years, Phillipa deals with divorce and the financial consequences of marital or relationship breakdown.
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