More than a million grandchildren are not allowed to see their grandparents, according to a new report by the Grandparents’ Association.
This has led the television presenter Gloria Hunniford to call on the Government to give greater legal rights to grandparents who are separated from their grandchildren when parents divorce.
Ms Hunniford, a grandmother of eight and a family campaigner, wants the barriers that prevent grandparents from having access to grandchildren to be removed.
Her demand is supported by family pressure groups, which say that grandparents face the “unnecessary obstacle” of having to go to court twice to seek permission to see their own grandchildren.
Ms Hunniford said the new report showed “the need for Government to address the importance of grandparents in future policy and legislation”.
She added: “It also demonstrates the need to amend the Children Act 1989 to remove the obstacle that requires the biological family to ask permission prior to making an application to the court for contact.
“It is time for the Government to harness the love and attention that grandparents yearn to give to their families.”
Dedicated matrimonial lawyers are also concerned that grandparents can be sidelined by divorce. The more acrimonious the split, the more likely it will be that grandparents are denied regular – or any – access to their grandchildren.
My view is that it is a sorry situation when a grandparent has to resort to court action to see their grandchildren. Rather than needing to amend the Children Act, I think more should be done to educate and advise separating parents. Divorce lawyers can do their bit by stressing the benefits to children of having regular contact with their grandparents.
Divorce can bring uncertainty and change into children’s lives: grandparents are often the conduit that bridges the gap between past and future. Their presence can be very reassuring for children.
Grandparents can provide a welcome respite to parents who need some time and space to work out the logistics of their divorce and come to terms with the emotional fallout of the separation.
To cut grandparents out of children’s lives – especially when it’s done vindictively, to get back at the estranged spouse – is not only unkind; it’s also short-sighted on a practical level. Grandparents can take kids off your hands when the going is particularly tough – what a great resource!
Many grandparents are devastated when their children’s marriages end in divorce.
That devastation is compounded if they are denied access to their grandchildren – the shining lights in the dark cloud of marital break-up. It benefits the children and the grandparents if regular contact can be maintained. It also benefits the parents: they will gain some much-needed “me” time in the short-term and, longer term; they will see their children flourish from the continuity of care that grandparents provide.