In fact, it’s a sad reality that right now in Britain there are an estimated one million grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren as a direct result of a family breakdown, feud or bereavement.
Of course, most grandparents have no wish to get caught up in the relationship difficulties of their children. Most just want to continue having a relationship with their grandchildren, but this can’t be achieved without the cooperation of their parents.
So if you’ve found yourself in a position where you’re not being given access to your grandkids, where do you turn?
The bad news for grandparents is that there is no recourse. Unlike parents (and those with ‘parental responsibility’), you don’t have any automatic legal visitation rights when it comes to contact with your grandchildren. Instead you need to get permission from the court to apply for contact.
If you’re concerned, we initially advise that you approach either parent, explain your concerns and reassert your wish for regular contact with your grandkids. In our experience, most parents will offer the reassurances that you need.
If this doesn’t work, you have options available through the family courts, but venturing down this channel can be lengthy, expensive and can do irreparable damage to your relationship with the parents. So if you’re considering asserting your rights in court, you might want to consider agreeing visitation rights through family mediation before you proceed further.
Family mediation offers an alternative to court that is calmer and non-confrontational. It can also be significantly quicker and cheaper than the adversarial route.
It’s important to note that mediation is voluntary however. You can’t force the parents to take part, nor can be sure that you’ll be able to find a compromise.
But if there’s a willingness on both sides to resolve your conflict, mediation gives you the opportunity to sit down with a specialist family mediator and consider – constructively – how you’ll communicate in the future.
You can also explore the reasons for the breakdown of your relationship, understand the expectations of the other and look at possibilities for restarting contact with your grandkids.
If mediation isn’t successful, you can speak to a solicitor about making an application to court, but this route should only be considered as last resort for you.
If you’re a grandparent or parent of a child and you’d like to speak to us about grandparent visitation rights, call our family mediators in Bristol 0117 325 2929.
Alternatively complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will get back to you shortly.