Grandparents Apart UK

Grandparents Apart UK
"Bringing Families Together"

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scottish Woman's Aid, Mission Statement.

Our vision

Scottish Women's Aid’s vision is of a society in which women, children and young people are full and equal participants, unconstrained by the threat of domestic abuse or other forms of violence or oppression.

Our mission

We believe that ending violence against women means tackling its root cause, which is gender inequality.

We will do this by:

· Promoting women’s equality and children’s rights
· Campaigning for policy and practice responses that actively prevent violence against women
· Working to ensure appropriate service responses are available for women children and young people with experience of domestic abuse
· Providing services and advice to our members

Regards Heather

Heather Coady
Children's Policy

Scottish Women's Aid
2nd Floor
132 Rose Street
Tel: +44(0)131 226 4958

Friday, June 12, 2009

Grandmother to give grandson to criminal father

By Daily Mail ReporterLast updated at 7:01 PM on 11th June 2009

A woman who has devoted her life to caring for her five-year-old grandson must give him up to his criminal father after judges ruled he should be with his natural parents.

The woman has cared for the boy since his birth and has fought his father, who has recently served time for racially aggravated assault, to keep the youngster.

But Appeal Court judges today upheld 'the immutable principle that children should live with their natural parents' when they ordered the grandmother to hand over the boy.

However, the court heard that the grandmother is refusing to give in and is determined to take her case to the House of Lords.

She will be able to hold on to the boy - referred to in court only as 'H' - until the Law Lords have considered her plea.

In a bid to defuse the family war, Lord Justice Wall told the court: 'The mother, father and H all owe the grandmother an enormous debt in this case.

'Nothing can take away from what she has given to H. Indeed, without her, H may have been taken into care and adopted.

'Whatever happens in the future, the grandmother will continue to play an important role in H's life'.

Urging an end to the bitter litigation, the judge added: 'Of course the future is uncertain, but we very much hope that the parties will now be able to cooperate over H and his future. It is very much in H's interest that they should do so.

'Dragging up the past and making criticisms of each no substitute for H growing up in a family in which there is mutual respect and co-operation and in which H can move between family members without ill ease or disloyalty.'

But, ruling in favour of the father, the judge said it was the 'right result' that his rights as a natural parent should take precedence and the woman who has looked after him all her life 'should now resume her proper role as grandmother'.

Urging the grandmother to hold back from taking her case to the House of Lords, Lord Justice Wall said: 'Our hope remains that she will, for H's sake, say that enough is enough and will negotiate a sensible handover of H to the father's care'.

At Norwich High Court earlier this year, Judge Richards ruled that the grandmother should give up the boy.

He said: 'It has been said that wise or foolish, rich or poor, it is the right of the child to be brought up in the home of his or her natural parent'

He added that the courts 'should always have in mind, in the ordinary way, that the rearing of a child by his or her biological parents can be expected to be in the child's best interests, both in the short term and, importantly, in the long term'.

As the father - now married - was capable of being a 'good enough' parent to the boy, Judge Richards said he was entitled to precedence as the natural father.

In his decision today, Lord Justice Wall said: 'We have to doubt, as a matter of principle, whether or not 'good enough' parenting by a natural parent is necessarily more in a child's best interests than first rate parenting by a grandmother.'

But, despite arguments that the grandmother is H's 'psychological parent' and it would be in the boy's best interests to stay with her, the judge said that the courts 'must beware of what has been described as 'social engineering''.

Dismissing the grandmother's appeal, the judge, sitting with Lord Justice Elias, said he could find nothing 'plainly wrong' in Judge Richards' decision and he had exercised his discretion 'to achieve what we think is the right result'.

The Appeal Court's order that the grandmother hand over the boy to his father was stayed pending her application for leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

Her barrister, Peter Horrocks, said a petition would be delivered to the Law Lords by the end of next week

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Times
June 9, 2009

Don’t exclude the grandparents
Almost half of grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren after family break-up — but when Susannah Hickling lost her French partner, she found that she needed her in-laws’ help more than ever

Susannah Hickling

I had known about Richard’s death for all of one minute when his mother started to scream repeatedly: “She’ll go back to England and we’ll never see the baby again!” Submerged in an ocean of grief with an icy numbness already creeping over me, I can honestly say that the thought of taking our 15-day-old son from our home in France back to London had not even entered my head.

In the weeks and months that followed, my mother and sister urged me to do just that. I did eventually go back — but not for another four years and not before I was satisfied that my son had built a meaningful relationship with his father’s family.
Even amid the most terrible sorrow, something told me that it was important for Joshua to get to know his paternal grandparents, his aunt and uncle and his half-brother and half-sister — people I barely knew myself, as a relative newcomer to their small village in Provence. They were a close family in an area where blood ties are so strong that they often exclude friendships. Joshua would also need to speak French, as Richard’s relatives spoke no English. And, anyway, having lost my soulmate, who was shot accidentally by a game hunter on a hillside near our home, when our child was barely two weeks old, I reasoned that I would be unhappy wherever I was.

The Grandparents’ Association estimates that more than a million children in Britain are not allowed to see their grandparents because of divorce or family tragedy. And a recent report published by pressure groups including the Family Matters Institute and Families Need Fathers pointed out that, while the law grants an automatic right to step-parents who have lived as part of a family for three years to apply to the family courts for contact, the same right is not given to grandparents.

In contrast to the UK — where 42 per cent of grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren after a family break-up — grandparents’ rights are enshrined in French law. I never wanted it to come to that, not because I thought that Richard’s family would take me to court but because it seemed clear to me that a mother has to act in the best interests of her child.
But I’d be lying if I pretended that it was easy. There were big differences in our views on child-rearing and in our cultural attitudes. I was in a village that even locals from nearby towns derided as “backward”. The advice from friends, family and parenting books was in stark contrast to the accepted practices there. It is common for the wider family to help to bring up the children in Provence, and mine interfered as only a Mediterranean family could. I was often a lone dissenting voice against their collective belief system.

When they urged me to put sugar on Joshua’s dummy to stop him crying, I told them that it was bad for his teeth. “But he doesn’t have any,” said his grandmother. “They’re there in his gums,” I insisted politely. Later, I saw the tell-tale sugary sheen around his mouth and felt the stickiness on his dummy. “Who did this?” I asked. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law looked sheepish. “You don’t want him to have sugar on his dummy — you deal with it,” warned my sister-in-law when we took a bawling Joshua out in his buggy later. I will, I thought. He is, after all, my baby.

It infuriated me that I could be entrusted to manage a team of people and a six-figure budget in the job I gave up to move to Provence, yet apparently I was an incompetent mother. But I kept my usually big mouth shut. I was trying to build a relationship, not engage in active warfare. And I was well aware that my partner’s family, like me, were mad with grief.
They were adamant that the good old ways were the best. These dictated that, for example, you should never let a baby take a nap under a fig or walnut tree (I had both) for fear of toxins in the leaves, but that you should feed him lambs’ brains.

I realised that being undermined was par for the course, but some of their ideas were terrifying. Richard’s mother and sister told me that if Joshua misbehaved he would be punished with the martinet, a whip with leather lashes. This was kept for disciplining their dogs but Joshua’s halfsister had once been hit with it as a little girl. Only once, mind you, they said. “I think that’s barbaric,” I said.

At one stage I was too frightened to leave Joshua alone at his grandparents’ home for more than a few minutes in case he was naughty — yet soon I saw that, far from being strict disciplinarians, the family doted on my son and spoilt him rotten. It helped that he was the spitting image of Richard, right down to the fair hair and the little triangles under his eyes when he was tired. Richard’s mother and sister even enjoyed changing his messy nappies.
Although they wanted to look after him all the time, it always had to be at their house, the hub of the family. A few months after Richard’s death I decided to return to the local drama group — but it started at 9pm, and getting both of us fed and out of the house with all the baby paraphernalia took two hours. By the time I had dropped Joshua at his grandparents’ home, I was too exhausted to be theatrical in French. And after I had collected him at 11pm and driven him, tired and cranky, back home, I was a shell. After two sessions I gave up drama and the hope of a life outside my home and my partner’s family. This is my life now, I told myself grimly. But it won’t always be like this.

Gradually things got better. As time passed, Richard’s family and I came to understand each other. They realised that I could care for a baby despite all that had happened, and our total misery at Richard’s death mellowed into the dull pain of missing him. We all became a bit more sane and Joshua, now 5, grew into a sociable and well-balanced bilingual child.
By the time I moved back to London 18 months ago, I knew that I had done the right thing by staying so long. I had proved that it is possible to maintain a relationship with your partner’s family even when that partner is no longer there. That proof is in the birthday card that his sister sent me a few months before I left: “To a wonderful sister-in-law who came into our family like a gift.” I felt guilty for all the mean things I’d thought over the years and was glad that I’d left them unsaid.

“Grandparents act as a link with the past,” says the sociologist Clifford Hill, research director of the Family Matters Institute. “They are very important to a child’s identity and stability. The absence of grandparents is a major reason why so many children are unstable.”
The Family Matters Institute, Families Need Fathers and the Grandparents’ Association are campaigning for a simplification of the tortuous and costly legal process that grandparents in the UK have to endure to see estranged grandchildren. A letter-writing campaign is urging MPs to include the issue in their party manifestos.

My son adores his father’s family and particularly his grandmother, who has always had the time to play with him that I, as a lone working parent, have not. He goes to a Saturday school to keep up his French, we Skype the in-laws every Sunday and go to see them in Provence twice a year. They, in turn, make an annual pilgrimage to London. Thanks to their love for Joshua and my ability, for once, to see the bigger picture, we have created an unbreakable link to the father my son never knew.

For further information and support, grandparents can Grandparents Apart UK 0141 882 5658

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mother sent to prison for non-compliance

Mother sent to prison in child-access row with ex-partner

Published Date: 06 June 2009

A MOTHER has been jailed for three months and warned she could face longer in prison for repeatedly obstructing contact between her former partner and their daughter.
Tina Monem, 26, was held to be in contempt of court by a sheriff but was released after a couple of days pending an appeal against the three-month sentence, which she claimed was "harsh and oppressive".Her challenge was rejected by three judges
in the Court of Session, who said Ms Monem tried the sheriff's patience "beyond endurance".

They ordered her return to jail to complete the sentence.However, they made a finding against Ms Monem that she had committed contempt before them too, and she will be sentenced for that in due course.Lord Gill, the Lord Justice-Clerk, who headed the appeal court, said: "If we were to pass sentence for that contempt now, the sentence might be severe. "I think that we should give her the opportunity to reflect on the gravity of her conduct and to desist from it. I therefore propose that we should defer sentence for the contempt of this court for six months."Ms Monem's battle with her ex-partner over their seven-year-old child was heard by

Sheriff Richard Davidson in Dundee. The partner was granted six hours' contact a week, but it did not take place and Ms Monem made allegations against the partner, which were checked but found to be unsubstantiated.Sheriff Davidson held Ms Monem, from Carnoustie, Angus, to be in contempt of court for failing to obey the orders for contact. He delayed imposing any sentence to see whether new contact arrangements would be successful.

Reply from A Salmond and Jim Mather MSP

Constitution, Law ana Courts DirectorateCivil Law Division

T:0131-2443322 F: 0131-244 4848E:

Mr Jimmy Deuchars22 AIness CrescentGlasgowG521PJ
Our Ref: 2009/00137360R 6Th June 2009

Dear Mr Deuchars

Thank you for your letter of 27 April to the First Minister, Alex Salmond. He has asked me tothank you for your letter and respond on his behalf. Your email of 20 May to Jim MatherMSP has also been passed to me to respond.
I can appreciate the upset caused to the individuals involved in the cases detailed in yourletter but as you know the Scottish Government cannot comment on or intervene in these.This government believes that it is usually best if a child can have the loving involvement ofboth parents and wider family in his or her life, as long as this is safe and in the child's best

As you know the Scottish Government greatly valued the input made by stakeholders suchas yourself to the development of the Charter for Grandchildren, which was widelydistributed to a range of outlets. The Charter for Grandchildren was designed to be a non-legislative complement to the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006. It is a document aimed athighlighting the important role grandparents and the wider family can play in supportingchildren, particularly through difficult times. During the passage of the Family Law Billthrough the Scottish Parliament, the issue of grandparents' rights was discussed and it wasagreed that giving grandparents a legal right to contact with their grandchildren might not bein their best interests in every case. Anyone with an interest in a child such as a grandparentor other family member can apply to the courts for contact with them. In making a decisionthe court will hold the welfare of the child as its principal concern.

The Scottish Government firmly believes that, if a child cannot live with their birth parents,the first option should be to consider the ability and capacity of kinship carers in the widerfamily to provide the child with a safe and permanent home. You may be interested to knowthat we will shortly lay the new regulations relating to looked after children at the ScottishParliament, The new regulations cover planning for all looked after children and set outwhat has to happen when a child is looked after at home, placed with a kinship or foster
carer or in a residential establishment. They also cover the assessment and approval ofkinship and foster carers and the role of fostering panels within local authorities.

The overall aim of the regulations is to improve the planning and decision making process forall looked after children and their carers. The regulations will mean that, for the first time,kinship carers of looked after children will have a formal statutory role. There will be a rangeof responsibilities and duties on both the local authority and the carer to meet the needs ofthe looked after child. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the regulations will come into forceon 28 September 2009. We have also commissioned The Fostering Network and the BritishAssociation for Adoption and Fostering to jointly develop a detailed guidance package toaccompany the new regulations. A training programme will also be rolled out across all localauthorities in Scotland to help them implement the new legislation.

In cases where adoption is considered to be the best option to provide that child with apermanent safe, secure and stable home, an adoption agency must undertake a thoroughassessment. This assessment takes in the wider family circumstances and will considercontact arrangements where these are in the best interests of the child. However, the fina!decision on what arrangements for contact between the child and their natural family,including grandparents and siblings, is a matter for the court to decide in considering anadoption application and all the evidence presented.

Yours sincerely

Claire McDermottFamily and Property Law