When a couple divorce or separate it is often a very difficult and emotional time, especially when there are children involved.
This can often affect the wider family including grandparents who invariably want to stay in touch with their grandchildren.
Unfortunately, a family breakdown can sometimes have a detrimental impact on the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. This is a shame as grandparents are often very important figures in a child’s life, where they can be invaluable in offering guidance and reassurance, which can be immensely helpful during a time of changes.
It often comes as a surprise to many grandparents to discover that they have no automatic right to have contact with their grandchildren. In the absence of agreement either with the parents or in mediation, they need to apply to the court for permission to apply for an order before an application for a child arrangements order will be considered. Whilst usually permission is given by the court unless there is risk to the child, it is an added hurdle and delaying factor.
If you are being stopped from seeing your grandchildren, the team at Haymarket Family Mediation, which is part of Phillips Solicitors incorporating Brain Chase Coles, can help you.
Family mediation is a way of resolving disputes, where a mediator helps both sides to find their own solutions to their differences. Attendance at a “mediation information and assessment meeting” is a prerequisite for court proceedings and mediation sessions can often help resolve matters at an early stage, thus avoiding a court application.
Sheila Parkes, who heads Haymarket Family Mediation said: “It is usually desirable for grandparents to stay in touch with their grandchildren and mediation can play a role in this.”
“The best way for grandparents to ensure they stay in contact with their grandchildren after a divorce or separation is to remain co-operative with both their own child and their son or daughter in-law.”
“While grandparents may have a feeling of conflicting loyalties, we can provide through mediation an environment where everyone can talk without the fear of criticising one partner over another.”
“We will provide a confidential, calm and neutral environment, where we will help both sides to discuss the situation and consider whether there is a sensible way forward to resolve their differences.”
This process can include making agreements about when a grandparent will spend time with their grandchildren and where they can meet. The meetings can generally be done face-to-face or increasingly remotely using Zoom or Microsoft Teams, so distance is not necessarily a restricting factor.
“Our mediators can help you draw up a written agreement, tailor-made for your situation, to make sure everyone is clear about future arrangements. If necessary, you can return to mediation if you need to update the arrangements,” said Sheila.
Where are a grandchild is either in care or at risk of this because of welfare concerns on the part of Children’s Services, grandparents can also in certain circumstances, apply for a Special Guardianship order to care for the grandchildren and this can provide them with parental responsibility for the grandchild. In some such cases Children’s Services may recommend mediation between grandparents and parents.
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During these difficult times our Town Gate office in Basingstoke is temporarily closed to visitors unless by prior appointment and when meeting in person is essential. However, thanks to our lawyers being able to work remotely, Phillips and Haymarket Family Mediation remain fully open for business and can discuss mediation or any other legal matters by telephone and video conference.
This article is current at the date of publication set out above and is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.