When looking at national statistics, it is hard to reconcile the facts that out of 14 million grandparents in the UK, only 58% manage to maintain contact with their grandchildren after their parents’ separate.
During a marriage, grandparents are increasingly relied on by parents to support and care for the children. Unfortunately, when a marriage breaks down, grandparents can be ousted from their grandchildren’s lives with little means of contacting them. The first obstacle that grandparents face is acknowledging that they do not have automatic legal rights to contact. They normally require the court’s permission before they can progress with an application for contact. An application will then only be successful on the basis that it is in the child’s best interests to develop their relationship with their grandparents. The Family Justice Review published at the end of 2011, did go some way to emphasise the key role that grandparents can play when parents decide to separate. However, it did not suggest any impetus to change the present legal procedure. In the Report, the Chairman of the Review, David Norgrove said: ‘ ..we continue to feel that the requirement for grandparents to seek leave of the court before making an application is not overly burdensome and should remain. Case study Recently stevensdrake were instructed by grandparents who were domiciled in Italy. Their relationship with their daughter had deteriorated and she was hindering their contact with their only grandchild. The couple came to us for advice about getting contact re-established. We explained that owing to the child’s young age, it would be prudent to seek supervised contact to begin with. stevensdrake represented the grandparents at court and successfully obtained a court order, permitting them to have contact with their grandchild at a local contact centre. Supervised contact proved to be successful and we then pursued increased contact for them on an unsupervised basis. After careful negotiations which we were leading, we managed to secure contact in these terms, as well as the opportunity for their grandchild to visit them abroad! At stevensdrake, our solicitors in the Family Law team are skilled at lending a sympathetic ear to clients, whilst offering pragmatic legal advice to help resolve their problems.