In the past few decades divorce has become commonplace and single
parent families are the norm. This means that more and more people are
now being affected by family breakups, not least grandparents.
Until recently, grandparents had no legal rights when it came to gaining access to grandchildren, but in March steps were taken to give grandparents legal standing when David Norgrove, a former businessman and civil servant, announced plans to transform divorce laws to give grandparents legal rights in the event of a breakup.
Norgrove’s report, which was published on 31st of March this year, proposed that grandparents will now be able to maintain contact with their grandchildren following a family breakdown. In addition, with input from family lawyers London parents will be encouraged to use mediation to arrange contact as opposed to battling it out in the courts. However, calls to guarantee equal rights of access for both mothers and fathers have been rejected with the presumption of custody remaining with the mother.
A recent survey found that almost half of grandparents affected by divorce were completely cut off from their grandchildren after a split. In 1989 The Children Act extended contact rights to step-parents but did not extend this to grandparents, which meant they were forced to appeal through the courts to requests access – a time consuming, stressful and expensive process.
Currently grandparents provide more than 40% of the childcare for working or studying parents, a contribution that costs UK parents as much as £3.9 billion every year.
In the past, grandparents’ rights weren’t properly catered for in divorce proceedings, mainly because divorce was once a fairly rare occurrence. Although the new proposals could be seen as a sad reflection of our times, on the other hand it’s positive to see grandparents being acknowledged for their
important role in the family and given the right to see their grandchildren without having to go through the courts.