Sadly, grandparents are often the unexpected victims of divorce and separation and can face a real struggle to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren.
Maintaining a relationship
Grandparents can provide valuable support to grandchildren whose parents are going through divorce, often offering useful respite from the tension at home. It is important for grandparents to safeguard this refuge by remaining impartial, no matter how strong their own feelings may be about the situation. They should avoid taking sides or giving advice and think instead about how they can offer help in practical ways such as providing childcare.
What legal rights does a grandparent have?
Given the fact that there is so much focus on putting the interests of the child first during divorce, grandparents still have no automatic legal rights to see their grandchildren.
In most cases, arrangements can be made amicably to make sure that children can continue to benefit from time with their wider family, even after their parents have separated. If this isn’t possible, grandparents might wish to consider mediation. This works in a very similar way to family mediation for divorcing couples and would involve grandparents sitting down with the children’s parents to try and reach an agreement. Our specially trained family mediators are experienced in dealing with all aspects of family relationships, including issues involving grandparents and other family members.
If family relationships have broken down to such an extent that mediation simply isn’t an option, we can negotiate on behalf of grandparents to reach an agreement over arrangements for maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren. We ensure all discussions are focused on the children’s best interests.
What other help is available for grandparents?
Grandparents can apply through the courts to be allowed to spend time with their grandchildren, although they will need the permission of the court before a case can proceed. A judge will have to consider a number of issues, including whether there will be any detrimental disruption to the child as a consequence of the legal process. If the case is allowed to go ahead, the court will consider the application in much the same way as it would a parent’s application to spend time with the child. The child’s welfare and interests will always be the most important factor.
The fact that there are so many grandparents who are alienated from their grandchildren after divorce has led to a number of regional support organisations being set up. It can help to meet other people who are facing similar challenges and understand how they have coped or managed to reconnect with their grandchildren. These organisations can usually be found online and can provide valuable advice and support.
If you are a grandparent who is struggling to maintain contact with your grandchildren after the breakdown of a marriage in the family, contact our experts at Clark Family Law on 01423 637272.