Grandparents can play a very important role in children’s lives around the time of a separation. Sometimes they are the people the children can talk to if they are upset. Grandparents can help to smooth the way for handovers, acting as a go-between if the parents are struggling to talk to each other or there has been violence, etc. Grandparents are a valuable presence, a symbol of support, continuity and belonging in a child’s uncertain world during their parents’ separation.
It’s very important for children to retain good relationships with other members of the family and sometimes this gets forgotten when there is a lot of conflict.
These relationships are often discussed in family mediation and sometimes grandparents are involved in the mediation too. If they have been involved in the conflict, it can be a very helpful way of getting to new more productive arrangements.
Grandparents can also apply to Court in their own right to have contact with their grandchildren if this is being refused. Again they might use the services of a Solicitor to help them negotiate or make an application.
Grandparents have no automatic right to be a part of a child’s life but as a last resort, the court can be approached to make an "Order for contact" with members of their wider family when it is in the best interest of the child and having given full consideration to the welfare check-list (Childrens Act 1989).
The Grandparents Association can advise grandparents on contact issues and, if appropriate, may help with application forms to the court.
You may want to consider other approaches first such as writing a conciliatory letter gently requesting contact and re-assuring those involved with the child’s care of your respect for the decisions they have made.
How Family Mediation can assist Grandparents
If you feel unable to contact the adults who care for your grandchild you may wish to approach a mediation service for help. Your local mediation service will work with you to explain the process of mediation and discuss the best way of inviting your relatives to participate in the process. The mediation service will also advise on the cost of mediation and whether you would be eligible for help with meeting their costs.
Family Mediation is voluntary for all parties and can only be effective with willing participants. Mediation offers a safe space for families to make decisions in the best interests of children. National Family Mediation's accredited Mediators are trained to enable participants to work towards shared decisions and plans for contact arrangements.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.