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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Right move on grandparents rights?


For the first time, concrete plans are afoot to give millions of grandparents legal rights to be part of their grandchildren’s lives.

The move, which will make it slightly easier for grandparents to apply to the court for the right to see their grandkids, recognises the huge role grandparents play as carers in this day and age, particularly if a relationship breaks down.

On the face of it, this is a step forward. To date, they have had no rights and have had to apply to the courts for permission to apply for access rights! This makes it lengthy, expensive and with no real idea of what the outcome will be. The moves announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this week will remove that first obstacle.

You have to say though that while there is no automatic right at the moment, a grandparent simply has to ask for court agreement to apply and they would normally get it. So the changes don’t seem that massive except that if we can get a presumption of contact then it puts the onus on the parent to show why there shouldn’t be – that surely is the correct onus.

However, the phrase “can of worms” springs to mind immediately. Certainly some of the feedback I have already had asks the question: “Why should a grandparent who has not seen their own child for 20 years – often because of a situation of their own making – have the right to apply to see their grandchildren?” And shouldn’t the first priority be to make it harder for loving, caring fathers to be blocked from seeing their children by spiteful ex-wives with whom the children reside?

This is not an easy subject and I can’t see any easy answer. I think for thousands of grandparents it will be a sigh of relief that they have been thrown a line to help them see children with whom perhaps previously they had spent a lot of time. And I do think it is a credit to the new coalition regime that they are tackling a difficult issue and putting family matters so high on the political agenda amid the finance tornado howling around the country.

However, the courts will have to be sure that they are in possession of all the background facts before making any ruling so as not to open the door to unwelcome strangers.

Would you let them in?

Andrew Woolley
Family lawyer


Loading comments...

I have to reply to comments about ‘spiteful ex wives’. I am a working single parent who brought up my daughter alone from birth.Her father is from a wealthy background who developed cocaine and alcohol problems which made him unpredictable and unreliable. Despite this I strove to allow him access when he was in a fit state. Due to his cocaine addiction he had a stroke 2 years ago and is paralysed and confused. His parents moved him 170 miles away.They never had a relationship with my daughter and showed no interest in her welfare. Despite the fact that I spend my time and money taking my daughter to visit her father I have just recieved my second solicitors letter demanding that I allow her estranged grandfather, who is in poor health and suffers from mood distrubances to drive her 340 miles to visit her father one weekend per month. Women being demonised yet again. What about selfish men who see their children as their possesion and care notheing for their welfare?...

By N Mac Mahon on Saturday July 17, 2010

I am sure there are as many selfish men and selfish women.

We see a lot of mothers blocking contact for no proper reason and we see a lot of men not paying for their children, again for no proper reason.

We spend a lot of time counselling the needs of the children but “you can lead a horse to water….”...

By Andrew Woolley on Monday July 26, 2010

What do you think?

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