Grandparents have a special role to play in a child’s life. Sometimes they provide additional care and support when parents are working and if you ask a child they will provide lots of examples of fun times spent sharing time at home or having adventures out and about.
When parents separate, children may lose contact with one sets of grandparents (or both), and other members of their extended family. Sometimes, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members are drawn into the conflict (often inadvertently) and can be seen as ‘taking sides’ with one or other of the parents.
In family law, emotions sometimes run high and when a firm view has been taken on an issue, it can be very difficult to back down. Add to these any previous ‘in-law’ difficulties that were in around when the relationship was intact, and the potential for family misunderstandings and emotional fall-out is huge.
If grandparents feel that they are being shut out of their grandchildren’s lives, and they cannot make any headway by discussing it with their own children, an application can be made to the court for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
Before making an application to court, with all the cost and stress that that will cause for everyone concerned, mediation should be considered. It can provide a confidential, calm, neutral environment in which an impartial third party, the mediator, will help the grandparents and their own children to discuss the situation and consider whether there is a sensible way forward to resolve their differences and work out a way for the grandchildren to resume contact with grandparents in a safe and enjoyable way. This can include making agreements about:
- when the grandchildren will spend time with their grandparents
- where it will take place
- who will be responsible for transporting the children
- what ground rules will be in place to ensure that it is a positive experience for all concerned – for example, making sure that:
- no ‘adult’ matters are discussed with the children
- there is no ‘bad-mouthing’ of either parent by the grandparents, and vice versa
- the children are not brought into contact with people of whom the parents disapprove
A mediator can help you to draw up a written agreement with help from your family solicitor to ensure that everyone is clear about the future arrangements. You can always return to mediation later to alter the arrangements if they need to be updated.
If you would like more information about any of the above, please contact our Head of Family Law, Elisabeth Sneade on 01638 560556.