MPs are calling for reform to the current law to provide grandparents with a right to see their grandchildren in the event that their parents separate. Currently, there is no automatic right for grandparents to see their grandchildren; they are required to apply to the Court for permission to make an application before the merits of their case and reasons are considered.
In the event of relationship breakdown, the focus is rightly on ensuring that children have stability and are given the opportunity to spend time with both of their parents. Whilst the hope and expectation is that parents will acknowledge and understand the importance for their children of maintaining their relationships with their wider family, emotions and family tensions often intervene with aunts, uncles and grandparents often falling down the pecking order.
Of course, in these situations, it is quite often the child’s wider family who offer a corner of sanctuary and calm and so it follows that restricting and overlooking the importance of these relationships could cause further upset and confusion for the child. Not only this, but society has moved on and family dynamics and the demands of modern life are such that roles and responsibilities are often blurred with wider family offering a valuable hand with childcare.
For this reason, MPs are calling for grandparents, aunts and uncles to have an automatic right to apply to the court. They are seeking for an amendment to the Children Act to include a right of a child to have a close relationship with members of their extended family. The Ministry of Justice is considering the proposal which would represent a significant shift in acknowledging the importance of the wider ‘family unit’ in a child’s life.
There is a school of thought that the whilst the law as it currently stands is perhaps simplistic, it avoids boundaries and relationships becoming blurred by prioritising the rights of parents and those with parental responsibility for a child first and foremost. Critics are concerned that it could simply open the door to dispute, placing further restriction and demands upon a child’s time.
The hope and expectation would be for parents to recognise the importance of the wider family and actively encourage the continuation of these relationships however this does not always happen when emotions take over and parents struggle to see the bigger picture. There may be room for reform but it must be explored carefully and with caution, to avoid blurring the lines and causing more upset and confusion for the child who will already be working hard to understand life with two homes.
If you have any questions or would like some advice about grandparents rights please get in touch with Lucy Steele.