Divorce means that all families must get used to a new normal and while prioritising the welfare of children is central, it can be easy to forget that the change the immediate family unit are going through is also being experienced by grandparents. With children often spending their time with one parent at a time after divorce, precious time with their grandparents can be squeezed, leaving everybody feeling like they are missing out.
If a child’s parents split up, there is normally a presumption that the child has a right to spend time with both parents. This presumption does not exist for grandparents.
What options are available to grandparents now?
A. If you are comfortable talking to both parents about seeing your grandchildren, you can agree an arrangement privately with both parents.
B. Mediation is not just for couples going through a separation or divorce. As grandparents, you can invite both parents to mediation to try and reach an agreement.
Mediation involves a trained mediator meeting with you and your grandchild’s parents. Sessions aim to identify issues you can’t agree on and the mediator facilitates conversation to help you try to reach agreement in a more formal setting than round the kitchen table.
Mediation doesn’t just help you make decisions about arrangements for grandchildren; it can also improve communication between you and both parents in the longer term. Mediation can also be less stressful, quicker and cheaper than going to court.
C. If you cannot reach an amicable solution privately or through mediation, you can apply to the court. Taking legal advice is important if you want to make a court application. As grandparents do not have an automatic legal right to contact with their grandchildren, you will have to ask the court for permission to apply for a child arrangements order.
A child arrangements order can be used to record who the child is to spend time with and the detailed arrangements for those periods. A child arrangements order could include provision for overnight stays, indirect contact through letters or cards, direct contact or supervised contact as appropriate. It is important to remember that when a court is considering whether to make a child arrangements order, the primary consideration is the welfare of the child. The court will only make an order if it can be shown that it is in the child’s best interests to make an order.
If you are worried about the contact you will have or are having with your grandchildren after a divorce, do not hesitate to contact a family law specialist at Barr Ellison to discuss your concerns.