Hope for grandparents: proposals for a legal right to see your grandchildren

 

By Sarah Knutsen

The right to see your grandchildren is not currently protected under UK law.

Many find it shocking that grandparents have no legal right to apply for contact with their grandchildren, particularly as research suggests grandparents continue to play a pivotal role in families, often providing childcare and financial support.

Grandparents may seek legal advice or instruct a family solicitor after a parental separation, but as the law provides no recognition of their role in a family, this is often a lengthy and expensive process with no guaranteed results.

You can learn more by visiting our child access law page.

Possible reform

As part of current plans to reform family law, a report by former civil servant and businessman David Norgrove proposes radical changes which could see access rights for grandparents protected by law.

In the event of a parental split, grandparents would have the legal right to initiate court proceedings for contact. Separating parents may also be required to set up parenting agreements through mediation in which the grandparents’ contact rights are set out clearly.

While these agreements would not be legally binding, they may be used as evidence in court should either party go back on the agreement.

There is, however, a fear that protecting rights of grandparents at law could complicate contact agreements making it more difficult to reach a mutual understanding. However, the increase of separations means the need for such protection is greater than ever as more than 120,000 divorces were registered in England and Wales in 2010 alone.

It is important to remember however, that the right will not be intrinsic – ultimately the court will determine any contact based on the child’s best interests – as with any contact case, grandparents will need to demonstrate their suitability to maintain contact with the child.

Advice for grandparents:

Being amicable from the start will result in the best outcome for you and your grandchildren. Try to understand the wishes of the parents and try not to take sides. Make it clear to the parents that you want to maintain contact with your grandchild, a short note explaining this may help. Reassure your grandchildren and try not to criticise either parent.

Remember – should things escalate your conduct may be examined to determine your suitability to remain a part of your grandchild’s life.

You can find more information on these topics by visiting our family law pages. However, if you would like to speak to a family law solicitor please call us on 0800 1777 162 or fill out the web-form.

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