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Grandparents' rights in family breakdown

Odyssey January 2017

For the most part, being a grandparent is a joy; all the pleasure of spending time with children with the benefit of handing them back to their parents at the end of a busy day.  Being a grandparent can, however, be a difficult role when families break down and tensions arise, and often grandparents can find themselves suddenly and unreasonably shut out of the family life they previously enjoyed. 

Grandparents do not, for obvious reasons, have the same legal standing as parents in separation or divorce matters because the focus will be on the separating couple and their children.  Grandparents can however get dragged back in on a different basis than before because they are relied upon for financial support or childcare arrangements as their grandchildren’s parents form new lives.  

If grandparents who have previously enjoyed a close and loving relationship with their grandchildren do find themselves cut adrift there are options to try and sustain that relationship.  The starting point has to be considering a non-adversarial approach, such as our Talking Works service, by trying to open dialogue with either or both parents to point out the benefits that grandparents can offer by their involvement.  This seeks to prevent each parent thinking that the grandparents are interfering.  The grandparents should point out the practical benefits of regular involvement such as offering a regular teatime visit or collection from school. If agreed and scheduled everyone knows what is expected of them; the parents can use this extra childcare support when making personal arrangements; and the grandparents can look forward to seeing their grandchildren regularly on a convenient basis.

If dialogue fails, grandparents can apply to court for a child arrangements Order to secure regular contact, or, in rare cases, that the grandchildren move to live with them.  The court must first grant permission to allow the grandparents to pursue their application, but this is rarely refused. Over the years the courts have come to recognise the valuable role grandparents play in children’s lives and will try and encourage an ongoing relationship wherever practical and sustainable.   

We have successfully represented a number of grandparents in cases resolved in and out of court.  Please do not hesitate to contact us for an informal chat. 

Georgie Hall

Partner - Head of Family Law

e ghall@prettys.co.uk

t 01473 298233

 

 

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