National Family Mediation revealed this week that last year there were an average of 7 Court applications a day by grandparents for contact with their grandchildren.
The figure demonstrates the sheer number of grandparents who struggle to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren following a family breakdown, especially when considered in conjunction with the statistics which suggests that in the region of 40% of grandparents end up losing their relationship with their grandchildren altogether after a split.
Many grandparents are not aware of the availability of Court Orders for Children to protect their relationship with their grandchildren, and many are put off by the fact there is no legal presumption of continuing contact, and the fact that they must first obtain permission to apply for a Contact Order, rather than being eligible to do so as of right.
These procedural hurdles should not however be taken as an indication that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is not one which is valued by the Courts, and many Judges readily accept the importance of such relationships, and the many benefits as meaningful relationship with grandparents has for a child.
Of course Court proceedings should always be a last resort, and for a lot of grandparents, it is the wish to avoid litigation which leads to contact stopping if an agreement can’t be reached.
It is important for grandparents in England and Wales to know that other methods of dispute resolution, such as Family Mediation can offer a solution without contested litigation.
Detailed parenting plan style arrangements can also be very useful, and can be used to set out rules and guidelines for all of the adults involved to adhere to. This can include anything from the frequency and duration of contact, to what activities will be undertaken and who will be involved, and what information the children will and will not be given in respect of certain issues.
Often, the breakdown in relationship with grandparents arises from a lack of trust, through the perception they will ‘take sides’ and it is important to realise that the opposite can be true and they can provide neutral stability for children, if they are willing to stay out of disputes between the separating or divorcing parents.
Grandparent Contact Agreements are an area where a little creativity can go a long way, and it is always worth setting out what each person’s fears and concerns are relating to contact and then looking at what can be put in place to alleviate them.
A good Child Law Solicitor can help you to look at all of these issues, and how to solve them, rather than just taking matters to Court straightaway.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have the largest team of Family Lawyers in the UK including Child Law Solicitors and Family Law Mediators, who can assist and provide legal advice and seek Contact Orders for parents or grandparents who are struggling to reach an agreement over contact with children.
Cara Nuttall is a Senior Family Law Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
For an initial consultation call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online.
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