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Grandparents seeking greater rights

Grandparents seeking greater rights
February 1, 2017 Enoch Evans LLP

Hope is on its way for grandparents who cannot see their grandchildren. A Lobby Day in parliament took place on 31 January where campaigners including MP Matthew Offord, Dame Esther Rantzen & Vanessa Lloyd Platt pressed for a change in the law.

Grandparents have never been more needed than in this present era. During the last ten to fifteen years there has been a particular surge in grandparents being the preferred option to care for their grandchildren ahead of all other kinds of child care. Not only do grandparents provide care for their grandchildren but in many cases, they provide financial support to help their children on to the property ladder and can often assist in payment of school fees and other vital expenses for the grandchildren.
However, it is this same group who appear to be the least recognised or appreciated in law when it comes to the breakdown of their children’s relationships or in family disputes, with many grandparents finding that they too have been divorced from their grandchildren in the process when one or other of the parents concerned make the unilateral decision that they should no longer see their grandchildren. In an ideal world, families should still consider the grandparents when divorcing or in family fall outs but the reality is they do not.

The law does not presently convey an automatic right to grandparents to have contact to their grandchildren. At present grandparents, must firstly get over the hurdle of applying to the Court for leave (permission), then if such leave is given they will formally apply to see their grandchildren for what is known as “a child arrangement order”.

In 2010 the Labour Government produced a Green Paper setting out an intention to remove the requirement for grandparents to seek leave of the Court. The Family Justice Review was set up in March 2010 to look into this matter but the findings of the review reported in November 2011 recommended retaining the need for grandparents to apply for leave before making an application for contact. The review stated that the need for leave prevented hopeless or vexatious applications that were not in the best interests of the child. This remains the current position of the Conservative Government.

Despite several disparate groups being set up countrywide, grandparents appear to have little voice. That is now set to change! A lobby day took place on 31 January 2017 in Parliament where grandparents voices will most certainly be heard. There was a cacophony of voices including lively speakers who will be supporting the move for change and recognition of the overwhelming difficulties facing this group.
The day is being sponsored by Hendon MP, Dr Mathew Offord, who has an innate understanding of family issues.

Speakers included presenter Dame Esther Rantzen with her enormous knowledge and experience of children, parents and grandparents through Child Line and divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt who explained the legal position of grandparents and the need for urgent change.

By far the most important speakers were grandparents clarifying in one unified voice the heartbreak for grandchildren who can find that their only constant i.e their grandparents are suddenly rifted from them at a time when change is swirling about them.

Grandparents are central to family life, they simply cannot be allowed to be the silent sufferers any longer. Accordingly, MP’s of all political parties and the media alike are being called on to assist with raising awareness of this important issue, the alternatives available and to press for leave of the Court to be shelved once and for all so that grandparents can be fully recognised and the vital role that they play in families today.

If you need specialist advice on the impact of divorce and access to children or grandchildren, please contact our Family Department by telephone on 01922 720333 or email family@enoch-evans.co.uk

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