Article by Peter Jones, founder, Jones Myers niche family law firm
January can be a challenging month in many ways for parents who have undergone divorce or separation.
It can also be an unhappy time for distressed grandparents who are being prevented from seeing their beloved grandchildren.
Grandparents can be instrumental in sustaining their grandchildren’s critical routines both during and after divorce – as well as supporting their son or daughter practically and emotionally.
Unfortunately, reasons including fractious and difficult relationships between their children and in laws/former partners can result in grandparents and other relatives being marginalised.
Steps for grandparents to consider when children divorce
If you are in this position, here are some steps to consider. We strongly advise only using the court route as a last resort.
- Negotiate some quality time with your grandchildren. You can for example, offer to mind them at specific times – giving separated parents, who can be particularly stretched, some down time. This negotiation approach can be conducted via a phone call, email, letter or, if communication is difficult, through a solicitor.
- Mediation – a way of resolving disputes constructively, wherever possible, and avoiding costly, public and stressful court litigation. This private and confidential process involves an independent third party, a mediator, who helps you and the parties involved to reach an agreement over time spent with your grandchildren which is formalised into a binding court order without you having to go to court.
- Apply for “leave” or permission from the Family Court to see your grandchildren. Once permission has been secured and your application submitted, the court considers wide-ranging factors such as existing relationships with the children, any risks of disruption or harm to them and the wishes – and the feelings of the child’s parents. It also takes into account if the child is being looked after by a local authority and the authority’s plans for their future.
In our experience, it can be difficult for grandparents to obtain leave unless the child or children involved had lived with their grandparents who were their primary carers.
While the number of successful leave applications is increasing, parents often reject or challenge applications made by grandparents. They claim the litigation would cause them stress, or that the grandparents applying do not have a relationship over and above the “normal” grandparents’ role, and therefore can successfully resist being considered under the current law.
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