Christmas shines a spotlight on family connections, bringing some closer together while putting strain on others. Relationship breakdown is unfortunately more common at this time of year. When marriages or cohabiting relationships end, it isn’t only the practical and financial issues that need to be addressed. The impact on children of the family can be considerable.
Grandparents play a significant role in family life. Frequently, they undertake a child caring role and are an invaluable source of support for working parents. They can provide stability to the child and there is often a special bond between them.
Following parental relationship breakdown, grandparents often find themselves marginalised or even cut off from grandchildren. A scorned daughter or son in law may seek to punish their former partner by restricting access (see our previous blog on parental alienation). Both parents and grandparents can fear that their relationship with their children will never be the same again or that they may be alienated from them.
Under the Children Act, grandparents currently need the court’s permission to apply for contact if it is being denied. The court must then consider the nature of the application, the grandparents’ connection with the child and any risks it poses to the child.
Such applications to the court are often complex. Family breakdown happens for a huge variety of reasons. People take sides. Hostility sets in and judgements are made. Parents and grandparents alike can lose sight of the child’s welfare right to have a relationship not only with their parents but with grandparents and wider family members too.
Applications to the court for contact by grandparents are often bitterly fought. It is difficult for parties to put to one side their feelings of upset, disappointment or anger but it is vital they do so and do not lose sight of the child’s needs.
The court arena is rarely the best way of dealing with these issues. Before any application to the court is made all other avenues should be explored including the mediation process.
Margaret Simpson is a partner in specialist family law firm, Silk Family Law, with offices in North Yorkshire, Leeds and Newcastle. Margaret has significant expertise in dealing with all aspects of family law. She is regional chair of Resolution, which promotes a collaborative approach to resolving family disputes rather than the more costly option of going to court.
Contact Margaret online or call 01748 900 888.
This article was first published in The Yorkshire Post, 23rd November 2019.