By Peter Jones, founder of Jones Myers family law specialist
While grandparents are legally entitled to make their own application for access to, or custody of, grandchildren during divorce proceedings, they have traditionally not tended to do this for fear of damaging their own child’s chances of contact.
This often leaves the older generation feeling marginalised as they wait for parents to allocate some time for them to spend with grandchildren.
Our advice at Jones Myers is that while they should not take sides in the divorce, grandparents play an instrumental role in children’s lives and should try to stay involved with them. They should emphasise the useful roles they can play – such as handovers and childcare – so that both parents will welcome them as safe, as opposed to critical, custodians.
When parents divorce, children may find themselves living in an environment that can sometimes be strained and the home of the grandparents becomes a safe haven, somewhere that offers consistency and a place where they can open up about their feelings.
Because being a grandparent after a divorce will initially be a little more complicated, it’s important to take the time to think about visits and planning days to help distract grandchildren from their parents’ problems.
Tips to help grandparents through children’s divorce
If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips that might help:
- Stay connected with your child and their former partner. It is understandable that you may feel disappointed and let down, but distancing yourself from them will cause problems further down the line.
- Grandparents can be key in helping their grandchildren through a divorce. Try to focus on your relationship with the children rather than the disintegrating relationship of their parents. Young people often need reassurance that the divorce is not their fault, so the empathy and warmth from their grandparents will be critical.
- If the parents can’t agree about who will have the children over key calendar dates like Easter and Christmas, you could offer to look after them in a more neutral family environment. However, if emotions are running high, separate celebrations may be better initially. Always think about the children’s best interests.
- Consider the other grandparents and be diplomatic with them. You may disagree with how their child has behaved, but in the interests of maintaining stability for the grandchildren going forward, try to maintain a relationship with them.
- Make time and space for your grandchildren if they want to talk about the difficulties they’re experiencing, but above all avoid criticism of their parents.
About Peter Jones
Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading divorce and family lawyers. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, Peter set up Jones Myers as the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.
Renowned for his sympathetic approach, he is a former national chairman of Resolution, a former Deputy District Judge – and instigated the D5 Group of law firms that promotes excellence in family law. www.jonesmyers.co.uk