19 July 2012
Family Law Specialist Cara Nuttall on the intervention of grandparents in a domestically abusive situation
Recently, I happened to catch 5 minutes of the Jeremy Kyle show (there was an innocent explanation to me watching daytime TV in the middle of the working day I hasten to add!) featuring a grandmother pleading with her daughter to end her Abusive Relationship for the sake of her Child, using the 'Tough Love' approach. It was a demonstration of just how difficult and fraught family relationships can get when members of the extended family believe there is cause for concern about one of the Children within it and then voice these opinions and seek to intervene.It is not uncommon for grandparents to have concerns about their grandchildren and the care that is being afforded to them, either by their own Child, or by his/her Violent Partner. Over the years, I have spoken to numerous grandparents faced with the dilemma of how best to act on their concerns. There is always the fear that by keeping quiet for the sake of harmony, the Child is placed at risk of harm, but this must then be balanced against the risk that by speaking out, the relationship will be made so difficult that the parent will isolate themselves, and the Child, from those expressing concern thus making the situation worse and cutting the Child off from the protective concern of the wider family. There is also the option of seeking to intervene and take over Custody of the Child, at the risk that their relationship with their own Child will be so badly damaged it will never recover.This situation has to be amongst the most difficult of any in regard to which I advise, as it really is so often necessary to look at what is the lesser of several evils, and which path will best strike the balance between safeguarding the Child and preserving inter-family relationships as much as possible. Many grandparents have no idea as to what legal remedies are available, or what can be done to intervene when their Child and grandchild are living in a violent or otherwise Abusive Household. Aside from legal proceedings, there are many ways in which Family Lawyers can help, for example by signposting help and support groups and suggesting professionals who may be able to work with the Child, or with the family.Sadly, my excuse for being in front of the television did not extend long enough to allow me to stay to see Jeremy's own advice on the issue, but my own would be that a problem shared is a problem halved, and that by seeking advice from relevant professionals before tackling the situation head on, grandparents can be assured of the many ways in which the situation could be addressed in the interests of all concerned and acquire knowledge and reassurance that can help get a family through an extremely difficult time.
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