For many years throughout the United Kingdom many grandparents have felt that they do not have sufficient rights in relation to contact to their grandchildren when their children separate. Pressure groups in Scotland and England have insisted that legislation is necessary so that their rights can be upheld.
I note that recently in England a review has suggested that indeed grandparents’ rights should be formalised. Concern was expressed that in cases where grandparents’ children separate very often, apparently in as many as half of all cases, the grandparents do not see their children again. If this statistic is correct then there is no doubt that these children are losing a valuable part of their family upbringing. I believe that the suggestion is that there should be some sort of intrinsic right whereby grandparents should have contact to the children and perhaps it is intended that these would be along the same lines as the principles of parental rights.
In Scotland, and I am sure the position is the same in England, while there is no formalisation of grandparents’ rights, it is open to a grandparent to apply to the court for contact and also for parental rights. The court will require to decide whether or not such contact is in the best interests of the child in the same way as such a decision would be made in any other case.
As stated above, intuitively it seems obvious that a grandchild will benefit from contact with a grandparent and indeed ongoing relationships with the extended family on both sides of the divide but there will also be particular individual cases where, for whatever reason, such contact is not in the best interests of the child.
In these circumstances and bearing in mind the role the courts have played in these cases in the past, I wonder if there is any need for formalisation of the law?
For further information please contact Accredited Family Law Specialist Alan Susskind.