The role of grandparents during divorce

Family Law with Paula Tanner - Tiger Law

A relationship breakdown can be a really difficult time, and sometimes the grandparents can be forgotten.

Grandparents can be a tricky issue for parents on divorce, dissolution or separation. Maybe your ex’s parents were very helpful when you were together, looking after the children or picking them up from school. But now you may have started to see them as wholly on your ex’s side, unreasonably trying to defend him or her, and not understanding your position.

You may not want to see them anymore and may not want the children to have anything to do with them either.

However, children in the middle of a separation are already going through a hugely unsettling time and are likely to be finding it difficult to deal with that emotionally, so finding ways to smooth that process for them will help. Grandparents who have always been there for them, and who the children feel they can rely on, can often provide a good source of stability for children in what can be a really troubling time for them. Doing your best to ensure that the bond is preserved could provide a much-needed sanctuary for the children during this time of great upheaval.

It is possible that if your son or daughter has recently separated from their partner, you could be finding it difficult to see your grandchildren. If so, what can you do about that?

Firstly of course, the best option is to try to come to an agreement. But bear in mind that feelings will be very raw in the early days of the separation, so it would be worth taking things a little slowly to begin with.

If you’ve given it a bit of time and still haven’t been able to come to an amicable agreement, you could consider trying mediation. This is a process whereby you and the children’s parents can get together with an independent mediator who is trained to help you listen to each other and find a solution. Often this can be a workable solution if trying to discuss matters on home-territory hasn’t been successful.

If mediation doesn’t work, you can ultimately issue a court application. From a legal perspective, you will need the permission (or “leave”) of the court to pursue your application as you won’t have parental responsibility for your grandchildren, but provided you’ve been a part of the children’s lives, you will usually find that the court considers it to be in their best interests to allow your application.

Bear in mind that successfully getting permission to pursue your application doesn’t mean you’ll be successful in getting contact, but it’s a stepping-stone towards that, and if contact is in the children’s best interests, some will usually be ordered.

But a note of caution. Court proceedings won’t likely be viewed favourably by the child-ren’s parents, and this could mean that your future relationship with one or both parents proves difficult in the future. It’s also likely that you could reach a more flexible agreement outside of court, rather than what is likely to be quite a restrictive arrangement if it is court-ordered. From a practical perspective, we would therefore always advise trying to resolve matters through negotiation or mediation if at all possible.

Of course, if that isn’t possible, we won’t shy away from court proceedings if that becomes necessary. It’s all about balance and knowing when to make the decision to move towards court, and we’ll discuss the options with you fully as matters progress.

If you’re a parent or grandparent who needs advice and support with legal matters surround-ing a separation or divorce, get in touch with us at Tiger Law – we’ll be happy to help you.

Tel: 01233 227 355 or email



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