Closing the Generation Gap: Grandparents and a Legal Right to Contact 

Published on 09 May, 2018 | Katie Dillon

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At times, it seems like parliament can move at a positively glacial pace.

Many great ideas can take years to come to fruition but that’s not necessarily just due to the necessary stages of the process by which bills can eventually become law.

Issues which are sensitive understandably have to take account of the views of many different pressure groups.

However, there are occasions when even the most delicate of topics seem to generate momentum, even across different generations.

Take the issue of grandparents who are forced to contemplate the loss of contact with grandchildren when their own children divorce.

These are men and women who may well have played a considerable role in caring for youngsters. Faced with the fact that they have no automatic right to remain in contact with grandchildren, more have resorted to court action to ensure that such relationships continue.

Regular readers of this ‘blog will recall how it was a theme of one of my ‘blogs from a month ago (http://www.hallbrown.co.uk/generation-gap-growing-role-grandparents-contact-proceedings/).

That had, in turn, followed coverage of our consideration of official statistics and Hall Brown’s own caseload by Olivia Rudgard, the Daily Telegraph’s Social Affairs Correspondent (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/08/grandparents-go-court-custody-battles-grandchildren/).

In the weeks since, a number of MPs have declared their support for an amendment to the 1989 Children’s Act which could avoid the need for lengthy, costly and sometimes fractious legal proceedings.

The Justice Minister and QC Lucy Frazer has told The Times that she is open to a “presumption” of contact (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/grandparents-could-be-given-legal-right-to-see-their-grandchildren-kwfscj52r?shareToken=08dc5a072a073a4b9095972e0d021e68).

Of course, whilst coverage of our research brought the subject into the media once more, it’s not the first time that Westminster has mulled over such measures.

An official review in 2011 ditched similar plans by the then Labour administration, suggesting that only grandparents who “took sides” during their children’s divorce stood to lose touch.

It is such a contentious matter that I was invited onto Channel Five’s ‘The Wright Stuff’ show (http://www.channel5.com/show/the-wright-stuff/) to discuss how best to satisfy those who have expressed either supportive or dismissive opinions about the newly mooted reforms.

The programme demonstrated how both politicians, such as the former Culture Minister and family law barrister Ed Vaizey MP, and the audience find it difficult to achieve compromise.

I have little doubt that, irrespective of how speedy or not parliament is in advancing the proposals, the renewed debate in the continued absence of resolution will influence those families who find themselves experiencing these very problems.

 

 

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