Grandchildren's Rights to see their Grandparents
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PRESS RELEASE: GRANDPARENTS SILENT HEARTBREAK
Grandparents have never been more needed than in this present era. During the last ten to fifteen years there has been a particular surge in grandparents being the preferred option to care for their grandchildren ahead of all other kinds of child care. Not only do grandparents provide care for their grandchildren but in many cases, they provide financial support to help their children on to the property ladder and can often assist in payment of school fees and other vital expenses for the grandchildren.
However, it is this same group who appear to be the least recognised or appreciated in law when it comes to the breakdown of their children’s relationships or in family disputes with many grandparents finding that they too have been divorced from their grandchildren in the process when one or other of the parents concerned make the unilateral decision that they should no longer see their grandchildren. In an ideal world, families should still consider the grandparents when divorcing or in family fall outs but the reality is they do not.
The law does not presently convey an automatic right to grandparents to have contact to their grandchildren. At present grandparents, must firstly get over the hurdle of applying to the Court for leave (permission), then if such leave is given they will formally apply to see their grandchildren for what is known as “a child arrangement order”.
In 2010 the Labour Government produced a Green Paper setting out an intention to remove the requirement for grandparents to seek leave of the Court. The Family Justice Review was set up in March 2010 to look into this matter but the findings of the review reported in November 2011 recommended retaining the need for grandparents to apply for leave before making an application for contact. The review stated that the need for leave prevented hopeless or vexatious applications that were not in the best interests of the child. This remains the current position of the Conservative Government.
Despite several disparate groups being set up countrywide, grandparents appear to have little voice. That is now set to change! A lobby day was held on 31 January 2017 in Parliament where grandparents voices were most certainly be heard. There was a cacophony of voices including lively speakers who supported the move for change and recognition of the overwhelming difficulties facing this group.
The day was sponsored by Hendon MP, Dr Mathew Offord, who has an innate understanding of family issues. A further 12 MPs attended the meeting.
Speakers included presenter Dame Esther Rantzen with her enormous knowledge and experience of children, parents and grandparents through Child Line and Silver line a charity supporting older people and divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt who explained the legal position of grandparents and the need for urgent change. By far the most important speakers were the grandparents clarifying in one unified voice the heartbreak for grandchildren who can find that their only constant i.e. their grandparents are suddenly rifted from them at a time when change is swirling about them.
More than a million children in the UK today are prevented by their parents from having any contact with their grandparents. This can be the result of death, divorce, family dispute, separation of the parents or the child being adopted or put into foster care. Equally devastating is that the grandparents involved are prevented from having any contact with their grandchildren. Research shows that almost half of grandparents never see their grandchildren again after parental separation or a family dispute.
Studies have shown that association and contact between children and their grandparents provides a special unconditional love and nurturing which is beneficial and healthy for children. The quality of this attachment is strong and contributes to a child’s sense of self and can be one of the most important relationships in a child’s life. Around the world, studies repeatedly demonstrate that grandparents input is vital for both emotional and economic reasons, yet in the United Kingdom grandparents continue to be treated as an undervalued resource.
Grandparents are central to family life, they simply cannot be allowed to be the silent sufferers any longer. Accordingly, we call upon MP’s of all political parties and the media alike to assist with raising awareness of this important issue, the alternatives available and to press for leave of the Court to be shelved once and for all so that grandparents can be fully recognised and the vital role that they play in families today.
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