Divorce or separation is a painful time for any family, especially when that family includes young children. There is often support for the parents and children through this difficult period, however the rights and needs of extended family members such as grandparents can often be forgotten. Here are our top tips for maintaining your relationship with your grandchildren if their parents separate:
- Have a conversation with both parents. You can begin by offering to look after the grandchildren, so their parents have time to work through their issues or some space to start their separation. This may come as a welcome relief, as often they are going through the process of separating whilst remaining under the same roof. Removing the children from this environment, even for a few hours could help the process run more smoothly.
- Do not cast blame on either party. It is very easy to start pointing the finger, to criticise or judge especially when you want to protect your own child from their ex-partner during an acrimonious separation. This can often cause resentment from the ex-partner or even your child which can lead to loss of contact with your grandchildren. Try to remain a neutral bystander and listen to their thoughts and feelings.
- If you have difficulty speaking to your child and their ex-partner it may be an idea to use an intermediary to speak to the parents on your behalf. This could be either a family friend or counsellor.
- The GL Family team can help you to negotiate with the parents to reach an agreement which has a greater chance of success in the long term.
- Don’t take it personally if your grandchildren don’t want to see you. It is often the case that younger children may just want to spend time with their parents; older children may be embarrassed or uncertain of what to say to you. If you cannot have direct contact with your grandchildren, then there are other ways to let them know you are there for them, such as cards, letters, email, text messages or skype. Try not to be too emotional in your correspondence as this could lead them to feel guilty.
- If you have tried every other avenue, then you may have to ask the court for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order to see them. In doing so the Court will consider the following:
- your connection with your grandchild;
- the nature of the application for contact; and
- if the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well being in any way.
If you are successful, in your application for permission, then you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order to gain access to your grandchildren.
If one or both of the parents objects then you may need to attend a full hearing where both sides can put forward their evidence. It is helpful to seek legal advice prior to getting to this stage. The GL family team can help you through the court process; the sooner you obtain legal advice the better.