Parents’ rights in a divorce are discussed widely and regularly in family law, as you would expect. Grandparents rights, however, are talked about much less frequently. This is despite the fact that grandparents are often just as eager to see their grandchildren as parents are to see their children.
When parents separate grandparents can go from being part of a solid family unit in which they can see their grandchildren regularly, to people on the periphery of a broken family where there are no guarantees of visitation. Grandparents can find themselves out in the cold, even denied access to their grandchildren.
So what rights do grandparents have in divorce?
The truth is that, unfortunately, grandparents have very few rights when it comes to seeing their grandchildren. This sad truth is often very upsetting for people who want to see their beloved grandkids, but can’t, perhaps after an acrimonious divorce or separation.
What can you do if you are an estranged grandparent?
Don’t play the blame game – You may naturally want to side with your son or daughter when they separate, but maintaining a civil relationship with their ex is wise so that they are less likely to deny you access to your grandchildren.
Talk it through – The most successful post-separation relationships occur when families make a plan for visitation that everyone is happy with. Remind the ex-in-law that you are willing to take on childcare duties and that your grandchildren enjoy spending time with you. Remain calm as much as possible in these discussions as emotions are sure to be fraught.
Avoid the courts – Court action is usually expensive and cases can become drawn out, prolonging stresses within the family and making relationships worse.
Be realistic – You have to accept that your grandchildren’s time will be split between parents, other grandparents and extended family after a divorce or separation. You may therefore not see them quite as often as before the split, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a great and meaningful relationship with them as they grow up.
Seek help if necessary – If you have done everything you reasonably can and you are still being denied access to your grandchildren, you can seek legal advice from a family lawyer. The aim should be to find an amicable solution outside of the courts.
Author bio: Sam Butterworth writes for Stowe Family Law, the UK’s largest specialist law firm, run by senior partner and TV legal expert Marilyn Stowe.