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Grandparental rights? Are there any? Not as such!

Grandparents are a huge asset to a family, not only because of their support with regards to childcare, but also in terms of the strong relationships between generations and passing on wisdom from years of life experience. As more parents return to work, the cost of childcare can be huge and often mean that people are paying a large percentage of their salary just to be able to work. Many people are avoiding this by involving their parents in their childcare arrangements. If you walk down any high street you will see many grandparents with a toddler or pushing a pram. Estimates are that around 60% of all childcare in the UK is provided by grandparents.

The bond between grandchild and grandparent can be just as strong as a parental one, particularly if they spend a lot of time together, which is why many grandparents worry what would happen should the parent’s’ relationship break down. For many, being separated from loved ones is utterly heart breaking and always having to fight to keep in contact is very stressful.

Statistically, following divorce or separation, more children live with their mother than with their father and so despite efforts to emphasise that children need both parents, often the mother feels she alone can decide who and how often the child or children visit.

At present, your rights as a grandparent to see your grandchild/children are non-existent although there have been recommendations to change the law about this. However there is some advice we can give to increase your chances of maintaining a relationship with your grandchild/children should things go wrong.

Be impartial, be helpful, be supportive

Whether the relationship has broken down between you and the parents or the parents have split up, your best chance of seeing your grandchildren again relies on you to build bridges with the mother or father and improve the relationship to the point that they realise that the children will benefit from continuing to see you.

Whether it is swallowing your pride after an argument, apologising for something, or making an effort to fit in around the parent’s needs, whilst it may be a bitter pill to swallow, the benefits far out way the discomfort you may feel in the short term.

If you put your personal feelings to one side about someone, their behaviour to you, your son/daughter and try and diffuse any animosity or bad feeling, then over time you have a good chance of seeing your loved ones again. Be helpful, offer support and understanding to both parents and know when to back off and leave alone.

Do what it takes to get the parents’ trust and you should be rewarded, but there are always some situations where you may need to bring pressure to bear.

As a grandparent, it is really important not to take sides when your son or daughters relationship breaks down. Things can be said in the heat of an argument that cannot be unsaid and this can be problematic further down the line, particularly if the couple get back together or the aggrieved person has the children living with her or him.

Tempers and emotions are high during a break down in a relationship and it’s not always a good time to try and negotiate. Mediation is a process by which both parties pay for an independent mediator in order that they can communicate with each other to try and come to an agreement with regards to the children etc. In some cases where both parents are committed to coming to an agreement, mediation is a good way for grandparents to put their case forward for contact with the children.

If you unable to reach an agreement, you can look at applying to the Family court for a Child Arrangements Order.

The Courts tends to recognise the importance of grandparents in children’s lives and generally supportive of applications by grandparents.

Thorneycroft Solicitors are family solicitors who provide a complete service for our clients. We offer an initial consultation where we will provide you with advice on all aspects of family law and discuss the options which are available to you and your family before deciding on the best way forward.

If you are looking for expert advice on family law or matrimonial issues we can help.