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Grandparents’ rights in the spotlight as MPs campaign for amendment to Children Act

Grandparent and child

MPs are calling for the right for children to keep in touch with extended family members (including grandparents) after a family break-up, according to BBC News.

Under current rules, if a parent prevents a grandparent from seeing their grandchild after a separation or divorce, the grandparent has no legal right to see their grandchild. If an informal agreement with the parents cannot be reached, the grandparents may be able to ask the court if they can apply for a court order. This process can be costly and lengthy, not to mention distressing for the children and adults involved.

MPs are calling for the law to be changed to give children the right to have a relationship with close family members after a family break-up. This would include extended family members such as aunts and uncles.

The Ministry of Justice has said it will consider the proposal and last week MPs shared their constituents’ experiences in a parliamentary debate, with one referring to lack of access to their grandchildren as “a kind of living bereavement”.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The welfare of a child is the primary consideration for the family courts and steps are taken wherever possible to reduce the impact of family conflict on children when relationships end.

"We will consider any proposals for helping children maintain involvement with grandparents, together with other potential reforms to the family justice system, which are currently being looked at."

Jonathan Eager in our divorce & family law team, commented; “No matter what amendments are made to the Children Act, the important overriding objective is the welfare of the child. This is paramount, and as a result there are occasions when the court process is needed to ensure the safety of the child. If amendments are made that help grandparents without the need for court applications, but also ensures the welfare of the child, then this can only be a good thing to preserve the ‘family unit’.”