It goes without saying that divorce is one of the most challenging things a family has to negotiate. The effects of a family break-up are far reaching and when there are children involved the effects can be devastating if the parting is acrimonious and the situation is handled badly.
Frequently grandparents have had a considerable input in their grandchildren's upbringing by looking after their grandchildren whilst the parents work. The grandparents are often the lynch-pin for the family providing a stable environment for the children whilst their parents are absent, they have the best interests of the children at heart and today’s fit young-at-heart older generation are frequently able to provide a lively environment for their grandchildren, allowing them to experience the same kind of activities that the parents undertake.
In event of a marriage break-up, particularly a difficult one, the family fragments and often the grandparents are placed in the position of not being able to see their own grandchildren due to an embittered daughter or son-in-law refusing to allow contact. It is true to say that it has been possible to petition the courts for access to grandchildren but only if the grandparents are prepared to undertake a lengthy and costly two-stage process. This course of action often results in very real damage to the family relationships as each side tries to jostle for the ascendance in with the court and hurtful accusations are levelled. 2000 grandparents took to the courts to re-establish access with their grandchildren in 2016.
There is a new initiative which may be enshrined in law enabling the wider family, grandparents, aunts and uncles to have an automatic right to continue to have access to their young relatives following a break-up of a marriage. The suggestion has been warmly welcomed and will recognise the importance of the wider family. The lawyers at Giambrone are fully aware that there have been situations where grandparents have had to try and prove that they have a relationship with their own grandchildren and find themselves receiving a visit from the police for sending a birthday card. There are rare circumstances where following a particularly hostile break-up or where there is a sudden incapacity where grandchildren are put up for adoption despite having grandparents quite prepared to take them on.
Giambrone believes that an automatic right to access to grandchildren, enshrined in law, would be the best starting point. The very small minority of unsuitable grandparents would be far easier for the courts to manage than dealing with thousands of applications from perfectly reasonable grandparents who simply wish to be in their grandchildren’s lives. In cross-border divorce the lawyers at Giambrone think that the rights of access extending the wider family would assist in keeping the family steady in the immediate aftermath of the break-up when feelings can run high and sometimes irrevocable steps may be taken or allegations made that are difficult to undo. Needless to say there will have to be a system whereby the relatives who wish to maintain contact with the children of divorced parents must apply to the courts or indicate their wish to be part of the children’s lives by way of “child arrangement orders” which will keep them close to the family in their minority, so that they are not in the position that when they are older and contact with the other half of their family is re-establish, their relatives in the estranged parent will not be strangers to them. The Ministry for Justice is open to any suggestions to that will assist in helping children maintain their contact and relationship with their grandparents.
If you have experienced difficulties in maintaining contact with grandchildren following the divorce of their parents the lawyers at Giambrone may be able to find a solution.
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