acknowledgement bhmgmarketing Ref: J1634 4 January 2010
Thousands of grandparents faced the New Year not seeing their grandchildren, as marriage break ups and custody battles leave them with no automatic legal right to contact. Children are losing contact with some of the most important role models in their lives, according to a leading Worcestershire solicitor.
But the grandparent/grandchild relationship has little or no legal protection, according to children’s advocate and partner at Harrison Clark Solicitors Andrew Caldicott.
“In legal terms, if a couple split up, grandparents have no automatic rights to see their grandchildren if the parent with custody decides to withhold contact,” he said.
“But in today’s society, when grandparents are often caregivers and act as a strong role model for children, this lack of contact could destroy one of the most significant relationships the child has.
“Whether it’s a beloved Nanny who babysits regularly or a Granddad who acts as a surrogate parent in the absence of a father figure, children affected by a parental split need the stability these links offer.”
In the case of a divorce or a relationship breakdown, unless the parent gives permission, grandparents have to apply for leave to seek contact with their grandchildren.
Before leave to go to court is granted, the courts look at the previous relationship the grandparents have had with the child and the family circumstances.
For example a grandparent who helps out with day to day care may have more chance of contact that one who sees their grandchildren one every few years.
If the go ahead to apply for leave is given, the court will then consider the application looking at how the contact would work within the existing custody arrangements.
“It’s not a simple process to apply for contact for grandparents and it can be further complicated by an acrimonious split,” said Andrew.
“But that’s no reason for grandparents to give up hope and not see their grandchildren.
“There are some things grandparents can do to make the process easier for everyone – the first being not to take sides.
“It can be difficult not to when your son or daughter is in the middle of a split, but it can make life very complicated for the child.
“Talk to your partner’s spouse and offer help if appropriate and encourage your child and their partner to try and work things out amicably, as it will make life easier for everyone.
“But if there are no lines of communication remain open then take legal advice at as early stage as possible.
“In my view, children need a strong relationship with both their parents and their grandparents and if at all possible, a divorce or separation shouldn’t get in the way of that.”