“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort and lessons in life.” Such a lovely quote to sum up the love we feel from and for our grandparents. Unfortunately, I was unable to have my grandparents around for most of my life. I, as so many children in divorced families, felt a massive loss in my life; there was always a gap in my life, a missing piece. Yet children are not the only victims in divorced families: just as I had this gap in my life, so did my grandparents. They missed out on monumental moments in my life: growing up, learning to drive, and graduation. I remember on Grandparent’s day (we have grandparent’s Day in Canada, where I grew up), as a young primary school student, we were all asked to write a poem about them. Mine was selected to be read out loud at the reception. I was so excited to read it, so on the day I put on my best dress and started to read the poem in front of everyone, only to realize that my grandparents were not there. All of my friends had their grandparents there, but I didn’t. As a result, I was emotional and unable to read my poem. As much as I felt the loss and pain of not having them there, so did my grandparents. They never got the chance to see me grow up. Why are these innocent parties so greatly impacted by divorce? What options do grandparents have to remain in contract with their grandparents?
As it stands, in the law of England and Wales, grandparents do not have any legal rights towards their grandchildren: they have no automatic visitation rights. It is left up to the parents of the children to decide how often the children will be able to see their grandparents.
It is often said that the grandparents are the secondary victims of the divorce, since they must depend on the parents to arrange, or in some cases allow, contact. Sometimes in bitter divorces, the outcome is that an estrange relationship will develop between the parent and their former in-laws. While discussing this topic with my friends, I found out that this was more common than I thought, all of myof friends knew a grandparent that had missed out on the chance to see their grandchildren or had experienced it for themselves.
The sudden break in a relationship can be both traumatic for the couple directly affected, and also for those indirectly affected: the children and the grandparents. I remember from my personal experience, when I was younger I would often feel that there was a part of my life that was missing. My friends would often come to class or tell me about their weekends or evenings with their grandparents whereas I was not able to have that relationship with them. As I grew up, I felt awkward around them, and I did not know how to actually react or to keep in contact. I didn’t really know them, they felt like total strangers to me. There was a whole part of my family that I did not know about, I would hear stories of my grandparents’ lives but I never knew them or anything about them. There was no grandmother’s house for me to go to, it was just my parents’ homes. We can all understand how divorces can be painful and affect the parents, but why is there the need to punish the children and the grandparents, whether the divorcing spouses mean to punish them or not. That bitterness shouldn’t be a part of the relationship, because often they are the innocent party and by trying to punish the ex-partner by forbidding the children from seeing their grandparents isn’t really the best option because no one is winning or feeling better – and valuable family support for the parent and child may be missed out on.
Don’t be disheartened though. There are options forgrandparents where contact with a grandchild has stopped. Although grandparents have no automatic right to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, they can ask the court for permission to apply. If granted they can then apply for a Child Arrangements Order. This type of order sets out where a child lives (if this point is in dispute) and with whom they should spend time. Each year hundreds of grandparents obtain orders stating that they should be allowed to see and spend time with beloved grandchildren. A grandparent who has been in regular contact with a child will have a better chance of succeeding at court than one who has never met their grandchild, but even in this scenario all is not lost. The court recognises that it is beneficial for children to have contact not only with parents but also with extended family so there is always hope for grandparents who seek to make an application.
If you are having trouble in this area please do get in touch. Let us know what you think in the comments below. Or if you need legal advice please call us on 0800 222 9500 or use the contact form to send us an email. We can help in all sorts of legal matters involving children and have experience of grandparent contact disputes.
by Eni Hanxhari
Eni is a guest blogger for Grayfords. Eni is originally from Canada. She is a second year Graduate Entry Law Student at City University London. She has a BA Degree Politics and History.