Posted on 4th December 2007

Keeping in Touch with Grandchildren following Divorce

Christmas is a time for families but grandparents losing touch with grandchildren following a separation or divorce do have options to pursue, according to Judith Middleton, family lawyer at Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks. An often forgotten consequence of a marriage breakdown is the effect it may have on a childs contact with their extended family, especially with grandparents. If a grandparent is denied contact with grandchildren following a divorce there are two potential avenues to explore. The first, and by far the best, is to agree a schedule of contact, arranged through mediation if necessary. If this has proved impossible then as a second and final option the matter can be referred to the courts. A grandparent can make an application for a Section 8 Contact Order, previously referred to as Access. The permission of the court is needed to make such an application but this is usually granted provided the grandparents can show that they have a genuine commitment to the child. Judith Middleton, who is also a member of, and spokesperson for, the national family law group, Resolution said: The breakdown of a marriage usually involves major readjustments not only for parents and children, but also for other family relationships. At this time of year it can be particularly heart-breaking for grandparents who no longer see their grandchildren. It is always best to try and negotiate time with the youngsters wherever possible. Making an application for contact through the courts is hardly ideal and is often a costly and emotive solution. However, just because a grandparent succeeds in obtaining leave to apply for a Contact Order, it does not mean that an Order will be granted. The courts main consideration will be what is in the childs best interests. Judith continued: Generally, although there is a presumption that a child should have contact with both parents, it is not necessarily the approach towards a grandparent. However, when separating, parents should consider the role a grandparent plays in the childs upbringing. Often they provide a critical role as carer and this can be very important during the emotional upheaval of the parents divorce. Grandparents often provide a sense of stability and continuity and this is something that should be recognised by both parents and the courts. There should be positive encouragement from each parent for a child to have contact with their extended family in the right circumstances. The effect that marital breakdown may have on a childs relationship with family other than a parent should not be forgotten. ENDS