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Do the Courts recognise the value grandparents add to the lives of their grandchildren?

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Grandparents can bring so much to a child’s life: the opportunity to learn new skills, explore family history and develop lasting and supportive relationships, to say the least.

Grandparents are typically involved in a family life by:

  • Helping out with the school run
  • Attending school events like sports day, plays etc…
  • Helping to organize birthday parties (and if you’re lucky make the birthday cake!)
  • Looking after the children in the school holidays and after school
  • Taking the children to swimming lessons or other clubs and activities
  • Helping out with hospital and other similar medical appointments

So why, if Grandparents are so valuable in a child’s life, are their roles in modern family life not properly reflected or supported by law? As the law stands at the moment Grandparents do not have the same automatic rights to share in the lives of their grandchildren, as parents do.

What can make the problem worse is that sometimes, when parents separate, the child loses that valuable relationship with the grandparents. For many different reasons children may move away with one parent or the relationship between the adults changes the amount of time the grandchild gets to spend with grandparents they were once close to. This is often to the detriment of all involved.

This can be remedied though. Grandparents should first try to meet with the parents to see whether a mutually beneficial arrangement can be reached to ensure their grandchild doesn’t lose out. If this meeting proves challenging, then some assistance could be offered by a mediator. A mediator will help encourage meaningful discussion between family members. It may take more than one session of mediation to reach an agreement that supports the needs of all.

Mediation is often very successful in these cases, but if it isn’t, or one party doesn’t want to go, then grandparents can make an application to Court. Whilst they don’t have the immediate right to apply to court, if they can show that their application to the court is in their grandchild’s best interests the court will usually grant them permission to apply.  Many applications have a high degree of success as most grandparents can show that they ‘add value’ to their grandchild’s life.

Once the court has granted permission, grandparents can apply to the court under The Children Act for an order, which hopefully will give some structure and certainty to the arrangements.

I am seeing more and more grandparents in this tricky and sensitive situation, worrying that they have no rights and there is nothing they can do. However, the courts are now recognizing the valuable roles grandparents play and are seeing more of these applications before them. Consequently, the courts are now making more orders that help to keep those valuable relationships alive.

 If you or someone you know if struggling to maintain a significant relationship with a grandchild, please remember that there are options available to help ensure that the next generation does not lose out.