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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

No change on grandparent rights


The interim report of the Family Justice Review was published a couple of months ago and has caused such a wave of interest that it seems very few people have digested its contents yet. Having been critical of the time it takes to conduct such reviews and get some constructive change to happen, I did sit down and read it all recently. As you can imagine, it is not the most riveting read though there were some fascinating insights in there. It was also interesting to see how certain important nuggets of information appear to be almost hidden – glossed over so you might not notice if you are reading quickly.

Take grandparents rights for instance. I blogged a year ago about plans announced by Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg to remove one of the obstacles in the way for grandparents wanting to use the courts to try and have regular contact with their grandchildren. It was seen at the time as a significant move towards recognising the huge role grandparents play as carers and in the raising of younger members of the family. However, the initial report suggests this idea has fallen by the wayside.

I think there were good reasons why this measure should not have been viewed in isolation and therefore why this is quite probably the right course of action. It would be quite fair for absent fathers fighting to see their own children to ask why time and resources were being devoted to helping grandparents when surely some parents should be in front of the queue for help. However, the way that it was announced and then quietly shelved does suggest to the cynic in me that it was political points scoring. Don’t make a song and dance about it too early in the debate if it is unlikely to ultimately get support. That’s like telling friends you are going to buy a Porsche, realising you cannot afford it and going for a Ford Fiesta instead. You wouldn’t get away with that without some questions being asked.

So it will remain that grandparents still have no automatic rights to see their children’s children. There is a process they can go through to get regular access, but the first step will remain that they must ask the court for permission to pursue this process.

We had 1,700 people landing on our website in April alone looking for advice on grandparent's rights – 11,000 for the whole of 2010. It does therefore seem that this is an issue that is growing in prominence for many people. Is it not therefore slightly dismissive of their valuable input to the younger generation’s upbringing to bounce this idea but not open a debate on what could/should be done to help?

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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I agree that family law should not be amended piecemeal in response to a few high profile stories, but it does occur to me that there is a simple way to remove an unfair barrier to grandparents who wish to spend time with their grandchildren in the grandchildren’s interests.  As I see it the major problem is the fasct that a grandparent has to obtain the permission of the Court before being allowed to argue substantively that contact is in the best interests of the grandchild.  That is an unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive step.  If that requirement were removed the the law in England & Wales would come into line with the law of Scotland where the absence of that artificial barrier causes no difficulties whatsoever.  An ill-founded case will fail and a well-founded case will succeed when it is argued in Court at an early hearing.  It is worth bearing in mind that if the grandchild is in Scotland then efven if the grandparent is not, then the rules of Scots law will apply, so some English readers should not assume that the barrier exists in their cases….

By John M Fotheringham on Thursday July 21, 2011

My mother is taking me to court for contact of my daughter. This is not in the best interests of my child first and foremost because she has a negative impact on my child and secondly I don’t trust her with my child as she advised my sister to ask my child disgusting questions such as does her step brother do inappropriate unatural things to her. This took place when I was at work and I came home to a terrified child, police and solcial workers became involved resulting in my daughter, partner, step son and myself all being questioned with theoutcome of no signs of abuse which we new for a fact was that would be the outcome! My mother has always undermined me especially when it comes to my child, she wants my daughter to depend on her when there is no need whatsever! My mother makes me stress out and question myself, this is not good for my mental health I ended the relationship 1 year ago! What chance does she have to be awarded contact? ...

By Laine on Saturday October 15, 2011

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