With marriage breakdown grandparents can be left on the sidelines, denied contact with their grandchildren and concerned for their future welfare. More grandparents are now taking legal action to make sure they play a part in the lives of their grandchildren. The Justice Minister reports that in 2013/2014 there were seven court applications a day by grandparents seeking what is now known as a child arrangements order (previously known as a contact order) in order to see their grandchildren following the divorce or separation of their parents.
Tips for grandparents wanting contact with estranged grandchildren
The courts system isn’t always the best way to deal with problems of this sort. There are other ways of trying to achieve what you want without resorting to court hearings and all the stress and cost involved. There are some steps you can, and in most cases probably should, try before you make an application to the courts.
First of all try communicating direct with the family. Talking things through in a rational manner can often help. It does of course mean trying to keep tempers and emotions at bay and focusing on the issue in hand, your desire to see you grandchildren, rather than perhaps other concerns you may have about why the marriage broke down, how the parents are choosing to raise the children and so on.
If the relationship has broken down to the point that sitting down and talking things through is not possible, put it in writing. Writing things down will help you gather your thoughts and express them in a clear way. You can set out that whilst you appreciate things have not worked out in the relationship you would still like to be a part of your grandchild’s life.
If that does not get the result you want you may choose to try family mediation. If the parent or parents are willing to be involved this process can help and is available for grandparents as well as separating couples. Seek a mediator who understands your plight and who will listen to your concerns. Also speak to an experienced family lawyer who can advise you of your options in full including the pitfalls and the advantages or each approach. A family lawyer will guide you through the mediation process and if it is unsuccessful and you still wish to pursue things be able to support you in your application for a child arrangements order to the court.
And for many people the joy they get from rekindling their relationship with a grandchild makes everything worth it. We had a phone call just this week from a grandmother we had spoken to late last year who was going through the process herself and was so distressed that she felt she was not getting anywhere. When we spoke to her then we reassured her that she was doing all she could and should continue to persevere. Her call this week was to say thank you, if she hadn’t spoken to me to get full details of the process and what she could do she would have given up and whilst the arrangement was not perfect she was now seeing her granddaughter.