For families that have separated, the question of where children spend Christmas day is always a difficult one. However, with fragile relationships at stake, grandparents might be wary about rocking the boat.
For families that have separated, the question of where children spend Christmas day is always a difficult one.
If you have strong traditions or religious beliefs it may be important to you how Christmas is celebrated and you may want your grandchildren with you at specific family events. However, with fragile relationships at stake, grandparents might be wary about rocking the boat.
Whilst contact between the children and their parents may still be in dispute, there should be no reason for grandparents to feel they have to wait for the dust to settle before asking for contact in their own right. Although grandparents are not automatically entitled to contact, the family courts increasingly recognise the important role grandparents play in the lives of children, providing a source of comfort and stability at a difficult time in the child’s life.
As children often stay with their mother after a divorce or separation, paternal grandparents may face harder obstacles to gaining contact especially if there is a new partner on the scene. A parent who has sole care may have moved away without informing you, leaving you unsure about how to maintain contact. In other cases grandparents are expected to bear the burden of increased travel.
Problems can also arise for grandparents where one parent wants to set conditions on the contact arrangements, for example preventing your son or daughter from spending time alone with the children or in your presence. This can cause difficulties, but the only binding conditions are those set out by a court. Where there is a court order in place, grandparents should exercise care to keep to the terms set. In all other situations, the reasonableness and practicality of contact arrangements should be regularly reviewed.
What you can do
This is where a solicitor can be useful. In the first instance, a simple letter can break the ice and set out your wishes to maintain contact with your grandchildren. Your solicitor can also advise you on your rights and the appropriateness of any conditions on the contact and initiate negotiations for change.
Alternatively, a mediator can provide a neutral setting for discussion with the parents which could be an opportunity to review the contact arrangements and overcome any obstacles.
As a last resort you might consider a court application. Grandparents are not automatically allowed to apply for contact through the courts; they have to ask for permission to apply first. The court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child when making its decision.
For more information contact Anne Francis