Grandchildren from broken homes are increasingly being deprived of contact with grandparents, according to a leading lawyer.
Family law specialist Carol Whereat, who heads the Cirencester base of online law firm Woolley & Co, said lack of grandparents rights was partially to blame and existing law did little to help them.
“Over the years case law has developed to provide a level of contact with children for absent parents but grandparents are often overlooked in the equation,” Carol said.
“As a result, grandchildren can often miss out on precious contact with their grandparents which is an integral part of their childhood. The grandparent acts as a role model, influencing children directly and indirectly but the law does little to support them.”
If grandparents are unsuccessful in gaining contact with their grandchildren by approaching the child's mother or father directly or through a process of meditation, the final resort is an application to the court.
In this instance they are at a disadvantage compared to parents as there is no presumption of contact with the child. They also have an additional 'hurdle' to get over first in that they must apply for leave to apply for a contact order – they have to initially apply to the court for permission to apply for a contact order. Even if this permission is granted, and an application for contact is then filed.
Parents may object which often results in a full court hearing where grandparents must prove they had a meaningful and ongoing relationship with their grandchild and it is in the child's best interests for the relationship to be maintained.
Welfare issues can also provide an obstacle for grandparents and even if a decision is made in favour of them retaining contact the mother of the child or children may still not agree and choose to ignore the court order.
Carol said: “Unfortunately for grandparents and for the children involved, enforcing contact with children in the UK is extremely difficult. If relations with the parents are strained proper and early legal advice is essential in understanding options open to you.”
For advice on divorce and family matters contact Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or email here