In a divorce, nobody really comes out of the process a ‘winner’. Hostilities between battling former spouses can sour relationships not just between them, but throughout the wider family group too. Courts do their very best to protect the interests and the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of the family, the children.
But what about the older relatives? In a divorce situation, what rights do grandparents have, and how should they deal with what is always a very painful and emotional situation?
The forgotten victims
Grandparents can often be the forgotten victims of a marriage breakdown. Unfortunately, there is no legislation in place that gives grandparents any automatic rights of access before, during or after a divorce. There was an attempt to introduce a Private Members Bill in parliament called the Grandparents (Access Rights) Bill 2010-12, but it failed to complete its passage through parliament and therefore never became law.
Initially, the only option that grandparents really have is mediation. Contact should be made with the children’s custodian to initiate the process. But be aware that this first contact can be difficult, as emotions are still bound to be a little raw. The most important thing is to emphasise that as grandparents, you have no intention of ‘taking sides’, but merely want to continue to see the grandchildren and maintain contact with them.
If this doesn’t work then the next step is to talk to a mediator. A neutral mediator can help get both parties engaged in positive dialogue, while ensuring that the needs of the children are kept at the very centre of any discussions. They may ask grandparents to give assurances that they will not try to influence the children’s opinion of the conflicting parties, and work out mutually agreed schedules so that the grandparents maintain contact with their grandchildren.
Family courts recognise the importance of grandparents in the family dynamic, and sometimes contact can be agreed in court, rather than by a mediator. This usually involves the appointment of a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) officer, who will act as the point of contact for the family. They will also look at any issues that need to be addressed, and help the court come to a decision regarding access.
Court orders can be applied for by grandparents if mediation has broken down, and again it will be a CAFCASS officer who works with you to look at welfare issues and to prepare reports for the court. It will, however, require the services of a legal representative.
However, despite the fact that grandparents have no legal rights to access, courts are now far more aware of the important role grandparents play in children’s lives. So they are more likely to set guidelines for access, regardless of the situation between the divorcing parents.
It is important to remember that grandparents do require the courts’ permission (also referred to as ‘leave’) to make an application for a court order granting them access. The closer the relationship between the grandparents and the children, the more likely the court is to grant access rights, and in some extreme cases, even make grandparents the legal guardians of children. This is rare, but it does happen, especially when the welfare of the children may be compromised if they stay with either of the parents.
What if one or both parents object?
Parents have the right to object to grandparents having access to their grandchildren, especially if there are grounds to believe that a child’s wellbeing may be compromised. The court will also look at whether contact would have a negative effect on the other family dynamics, especially during such a traumatic time as during a divorce. At all times, the wellbeing of the child must be the number one priority, regardless of the feelings of the adults.
Today, grandparents have a much greater chance of being allowed access to children during or after a divorce. The influence of grandparents has been recognised as crucial to the development of the child, and unless there are exceptional circumstances, courts will often side with the grandparents in access disputes. It is, however, essential to have good legal representation, with a solicitor that specialises in family law.
We have set out below a full list of the services our Family Department can provide whatever your circumstances. If you do however have a query which does not relate to any matter detailed below, please do contact our Family team who will endeavour to assist you.
Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution
Whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent within proceedings or whether you are simply contemplating the same we can provide guidance throughout the entire process. We can assist with:
- Drafting of documents
- Negotiations with the other party
- Correspondence with third parties such as the Court
- Advice face to face, by telephone, by email.
Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
Whether you are planning to marry or indeed have now married and wish to formalise arrangements in the event of separation we can advise and assist with the following:
- Drafting agreements
- Negotiating settlement
- Corresponding with all parties
Whether you are married or living together and in the event you decide to go your separate ways we can assist in formally documenting terms of separation. We can assist in the following ways:
- Drafting Separation Agreements whether in contemplation of divorce or whether to simply record the split of a cohabiting couple
- Negotiations with third parties
- Providing you with advice whether face to face, by telephone or by email.
Arbitration is an alternative to resolving disputes through the Court. At Verisona Law we can assist in a number of ways either by assisting you through the Arbitration or by referring matters to our in house Arbitrator. We offer competitive arbitration rates and a member of our team will be happy to assist with any queries in this regard. Please see our current articles on Arbitration for more details about the process.
If you have chosen not to marry but wish to live together you may wish to formalise the arrangements and details for doing so. We can assist in the following:
- Drafting cohabitation agreements/living together agreements
- Negotiations with all parties
- Advising you in person, by telephone or email as appropriate.
Divorce where Business are involved
We have extensive experience in dealing with breakdown of marriage where one or both parties are owners of businesses or indeed it may be the family business. We have experience in providing you with advice and signposting for business valuations and will ensure that the business as an asset is dealt with appropriately within any proceedings.
In addition to being able to provide specialised advice in relation to Public Sector pensions our team at Verisona Law has vast knowledge concerning all pension arrangements and can ensure that they are dealt with appropriately within any divorce proceedings. Please seek advice from a member of our team.
We are able to advise on all aspects of Parental Responsibility including:
- Agreements / Orders
- Exercising your Parental Responsibility rights and duties where appropriate
- Arising out of Parental Responsibility we can advise on applications for a Specific Issue Order to the Court if appropriate.
If you have any queries concerning Parental Responsibility and its impact on you or indeed whether you have Parental Responsibility for your children, please seek advice from a member of our team.
Assisting through Mediation
Whilst we do direct a number of matters through Mediation, this does not mean that you cannot have legal advice throughout the process. We can advise and assist you through the Mediation process and arrange thereafter to draw up formally any agreement reached be this by way of a Consent Order in divorce proceedings or simply to record in an open document the agreement you have reached at Mediation concerning the subject of your dispute.
Whether you are married or otherwise, or indeed simply have an interest in a property owned by another we can provide you with advice and assistance including;
- Applications to the Court
- Negotiations with all parties
- Advising and assisting you face to face, by telephone or by email.
This is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without the involvement of the Court. The Collaborative process requires both parties to have a Collaborative Lawyer and endeavours to resolve any disputes by way of four way meetings. We at Verisona Law can assist you through the Collaborative process. If this is an avenue of resolving dispute that you would be interested in, please contact a member of our team.
We at Verisona Law can provide you with advice and guidance concerning any disputes you may have relating to your child. This may be with whom the child lives, with whom the child spends time with, a specific issue concerning a child or steps that you wish to take to prevent something happening (Prohibited Steps Order). We can also advise you in relation to maintenance disputes with a third party guidance with dealing with the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a query with any issue concerning your child please contact a member of our team.
Change of Name
Please contact a member of our team if you are interested in changing your first or surname to discuss the drafting of a Change of Name Deed. We offer a fixed price for a Change of Name and we can provide you with further information upon request.
I went to Verisona Law because I had been unsatisfied with two previous attempts with other firms. Verisona gave that real sense of service, made.me feel like a client they were happy to assist at all times and ultimately gave the BEST advice and guidance. Dont waste money; go to Verisona FIRST!