Published on December 14, 2022

It goes without saying that most grandparents make a positive impact on their grandchildren’s lives. They can ultimately help to shape and help to define a grandchild by taking the time to teach, mentor and pass on some of life’s most valuable lessons which only come from experience. The time spent together is therefore often treasured on both sides.

Sometimes, however, life can get in the way of this important relationship and the precious tie can sometimes be destroyed. Whether the separation occurs because of a divorce that’s ripped the family apart or because of a disagreement that’s simply got out of hand, there often needs to be a resolution sought.

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

This article centres on how contact can potentially be resumed between grandparents and their grandchildren. Assuming that direct contact has failed at this stage you may now be looking at your other options in order to find a peaceful resolution, these options can include:

Family Mediation

Family mediation can help to resolve differences of opinion and to also potentially find a lasting resolution. Family mediation, however, is often only as effective as the mediator that is involved in the process, so do make your choice wisely. Take your time, speak to your mediator face to face and get a sense of whether they are the right person to mediate across both sides. Mediation can be effective at bringing both sides together and working through differences of opinion that are held. It’s also worth keeping in mind that family mediation is only effective if both sides enter the process with a willingness to mediate. It is not uncommon at all for one side to not want to participate within the process and dig their heels in from the outset.

What Happens If Mediation Doesn’t Work? 

There are alternate dispute resolution methods available to you, for example, collaborative law can also be attempted. Family mediation and collaborative law are indeed different, but both work on the same principle that both parties want to source an agreement outside of court. Sometimes however, one or both sides of the disagreement have no intention to settle matters outside of court amicably. This therefore renders both methods of dispute resolution as simply unviable. Therefore the only option is to involve the family courts in certain circumstances.

It is at this stage where it may come as a surprise to some grandparents that they have no automatic right for the courts to intervene and help them regain contact, unless the circumstances are exceptional. Grandparents or their appointed family lawyers, will have to apply for permission first in order for the courts to review the case. This does therefore add an extra layer of complexity before the case is even accepted or rejected. Grandparents or their appointed advisors, must therefore apply to the courts stipulating what they are actually applying for in terms of the type of order that they would like to achieve.

The most common arrangements that are requested are noted below:

Child Arrangement Orders: “Lives with” And “Spends time” 

A Child Arrangements Order sets out with whom a child shall live (sometimes referred to as a “lives with” Order) and with whom the children spend time (sometimes referred to as a “spends time” Order). Like the previous (and now unused) Residence and Contact Orders, no Order will be made setting out with whom the children shall live or spend time unless it is necessary to make such an Order.

In both instances the court will ask the grandparents to set out what it is that they seek and why they feel it is appropriate. On some occasions the Court may ask a member of the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) to assist by preparing a report. The grandparents’ views supported by the report will then be considered by the Court. It should be noted that the distinction between a “lives with” and “spends time” Order can sometimes be so subtle it is almost indistinct.

When grandparents want their grandchildren to live them it is sometimes necessary to consider an alternative type of Order that provides greater parenting powers. This is called a Special Guardianship Order. Cases of this nature can be procedurally complicated and emotionally challenging and it is vital that the proper procedure is followed.

To apply for either a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order professional advice should be obtained first in order to fully understand how to proceed. A family law practice will then be able to pursue the matter on behalf of the grandparent(s).

To apply for such an order professional advice should be obtained first ensuring you are clear on how to proceed. A family law practice will then be able to pursue the matter on behalf of the grandparents. Applications to court can be frightening however, when there is no other option but to go to court most grandparents will agree it’s certainly a cause well worth fighting for.

Issues arising out of divorce or separation can often prove stressful for the couple and other family members. This article written by Dylan Watkins GP offers a useful overview for those who may be struggling.

Alun Jones contributed to ‘Separating With Children 101’ 3rd edition, (Bath Publishing 2023)

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The Impact On Children

It is so easy to be told that you need to put your children first when we are separating, but what does it actually mean? When your life is turmoil and emotions are running high this can feel daunting when there are so many things to think about. If you have a child with someone, then regardless of whatever you think of them or whatever they might have done, they will still have an important role to play in the life of your child. Exceptions to this are rare. Possessive language that excludes or minimises the role of the other parent can negatively impact the relationship between that parent and the child and can increase conflict and make it more difficult to co-parent. We know that conflict and/or parental absence in particular has a negative impact on children.

Parents need to create the right conditions for children to thrive.

For children, whilst separation will bring inevitable feelings of loss and change, they can still thrive if their parents work in partnership to create the right conditions. We know that children are more likely to adapt with fewer problems, and less emotional distress, when parents are able to part with compassion and continue to work together in partnership even when they are not together. On this hub you will find lots of article and tips on how to minimise the impact on children. For example; how do you set up two homes? How do you co-parent well? What does it mean to put your children first? How do you tell your child you are separating? What do I tell the school? What about holidays? And much more...

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