Why I think grandparents’ legal rights are fit for purpose

Children|February 2nd 2012

Tomorrow I will be appearing on the This Morning alongside Gloria Hunniford and another guest to discuss the difficult subject of access to grandchildren following the split of their parents. I was the legal contributor to Gloria’s book Glorious Grandparenting and I have posted on this subject on numerous occasions. In the book I do advocate the benefits of mediation in these circumstances. Unfortunately, and very sadly, not every sparring grandparent or ex grandparent-in-law can agree to settle their differences out of court, and so these disputes can sometimes involve litigation. The court has to decide only one point: what is best for the grandchild?

Current child legislation is entirely focussed on the child, as David Milburn my partner in our Hale Cheshire office explains in more detail below.

One of the criticisms I had of the recent Family Justice Review, led by David Norgrove, was the large number of children-focussed professionals on the review body. I believe more attention should be paid to all members of the family, and although I accept that the welfare of the child should always be paramount, the lack of statutory rights for family members in relation to their own family does concern me. Is it not high time to accord formal legal rights to members of the family, subject to the overriding provision of the welfare of the child concerned?

Within the Children Act 1989 grandparents are not named as a special category at all, and they fall under the general category at Section 10 (2) – “All other persons”- unless the child concerned has actually been living with them in circumstances defined by the Children Act. Grandparents will require leave of the court to make an application for contact before the contact application itself can be heard at all.

Unlike David Milburn, who sets out his reasons below, I believe this additional requirement for leave is likely to encourage and potentially antagonise family members who may be opposed to contact for purely selfish reasons, and devalues the valuable status of grandparents in the family.

Whatever the arguments for and against current law, by far the best and most practical way to resolve these kinds of dispute is for a grandparent to always remain steadfastly neutral  before their child’s relationship ever breaks down. The grandparents must never allow blood to become thicker than water. Never make unkind comments about the child’s other parent, no matter how deserving those comments may seem. Grandparents do have to make huge sacrifices in these circumstances and also, should not be afraid to hold their own child to account if necessary. If grandparents are always perceived as neutral, and refrain from cutting remarks, then if and when a family breakdown occurs they have a far better chance of being involved in their grandchildren’s future.

I would be interested to hear your opinion so please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Should or should there not be automatic rights of contact for grandparents with their grandchildren? For some years now there has been healthy debate regarding whether they should be given the legal right to exercise contact.

To properly consider the question we first need to consider whether the existing system actually works. It should be noted that a grandparent is not treated the same in law as a parent.  Therefore in order to make an application for contact, he or she first requires leave of the court to do so – i.e. permission.

When the court considers the issue of leave it must have regard to Section 10(9) of the Children Act 1989 which states that the court should look at:

   (a)       the nature of the proposed application for the section 8 order;

   (b)       the applicant’s connection with the child;

   (c)       any risk there might be of that proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that he would be harmed by it; and

   (d)       where the child is being looked after by a local authority –

               (i)           the authority’s plans for the child’s future; and

               (ii)          the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents.

Therefore the court does have wide discretion when considering the issue of leave, bearing in mind the rights of the grandparents under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms to a fair trial and to a family life.

There are many voices out there suggesting that it shouldn’t be necessary for a grandparent to seek leave. Often a grandparent has a strong relationship with their grandchildren and may have exercised regular contact with them – why then should they be forced to seek leave? They argue that the requirement only adds additional cost and delay.

Well it would seem that the answer to this question, as confirmed by the Family Justice Review report, is to prevent “hopeless or vexatious applications that are not in the best interests of the child”.  The Review felt that the requirement to seek leave was “not overly burdensome and should remain” – I agree.

While representing a grandparent I have never had a case where I have not been successful in first obtaining leave, and then achieving contact between them and their grandchildren. I would add that in all of these cases the right outcome prevailed.  Perhaps I have been fortunate to deal with cases where the merits of the case were strong. I am sure that there are many grandparents out there, who for one reason or another have been refused contact. Presumably that is because the court felt that overall it was in best interests of the child to deny them access.

I am a strong believer in the principle that the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration, and must prevail over every other consideration – irrespective of the hurt done to parents and grandparents. I appreciate my opinion is not shared, even among the lawyers in this office. The Head of our Children’s Department, does not fully agree with me. While he accepts that overall the welfare of the child should always prevail, he believes that more should be done to enshrine the rights of parents and grandparents in law.

As Marilyn has stated above, she will be discussing these issues alongside Gloria Hunniford on This Morning tomorrow. I know that Marilyn has her own views on the subject, which she has shared on many occasions on this blog.

As I see it, the main problem actually facing grandparents and other litigants is the frustrating delays when making applications to the court. Cases tend to take too long to be determined and the procedure is open to abuse by unscrupulous parents who are determined to use their children as pawns in a family dispute.

As a parent myself I firmly believe that the relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is special and very important.  It breaks my heart to imagine those children who lose contact with their grandparents.  However, I believe that despite the problems with the court system it does still work in the vast majority of cases. I also think that the requirement to seek leave is still necessary to weed out those cases where contact really would not be in the best interests of the child.


David Milburn is a partner at Stowe Family Law’s Hale office. He deals with all work relating to the breakdown of relationships and the division of matrimonial assets. In particular he undertakes a number of cases involving mid to high-level assets.

An accredited member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and Resolution, David has represented footballers and other professional sportsmen. He places a strong emphasis on excellent client care.

David Milburn is the Managing Partner at the Harrogate office and a formidable divorce lawyer. He deals with all work relating to the breakdown of relationships with a particular focus on divorce. He has extensive experience of the division of matrimonial finances and cases involving high-value assets, often with complex business structures or trust elements.

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Comments(35)

  1. JamesB says:

    Anyone see Matt O’Connor v woman from Gingerbread on Radio 4’s today programme this morning? Fascinating. Not sure what the Taliban would make of it.

  2. DT says:

    I do wish the producers of ‘This Morning’ would give more time to these weighty matters. A bit more time on this grandparents’ rights issue at the expense of the ‘hot triffle’ demo. might have been an idea.

    I should say at this point that I am neither a grandparent nor a parent; however, I would like to think that I can bring a dispassionate view to this emotive matter.

    I am (as I have said before), very much in favour of child focused legislation which is very much at the heart of the rationale behind our current laws; however, in my opinion, the current position RE: grandparents isn’t in the best interests of children, isn’t child-focused and may well be harmful to children, which is rather ironic given that this is something which the legislation is seeking to avoid.

    If a grandparent (for whatever reason) is being denied contact, I agree that they should have to apply to the court for an Order, i.e., access should not be an automatic right; however, I think having to apply for leave in the first instance is an additional and unnecessary hurdle.

    Applying for leave means incuring additional costs and what’s more, it is depriving both the child(ren) and grandparents of quality time as it can be a protracted process even in a best case senario.

    RE: s.10(9)(c) CA 1989 – I think it may well be pretty disruptive for many children NOT to see the grandparents, especially if this has been a usual and positive course of action for some time.

    Furthermore, I do not think that it is in the best interests of the public purse to have such s8 matters taking up quite so many valuable resources when it is, in my opinion quite often unnecessary.

    I would like to see grandparents direclty applying for an Order without first having to applying for leave. If reports need to be undertaken as often is the case, then they can still be done, but will be done quicker if the necessity to apply for leave is removed.

    If it were to be felt that under no circumstances could leave be dispensed with as I am advocating here, then perhaps in more straight forward cases, leave and the application for an Order could be dealt with in a composite or ‘rolled-up’ hearing, or some other kind of streamlined process? It’s just an idea.

    As I have said, I do not have children, however, I know that my nephew and niece gain a tremendous amout from having a relationship with my mum. She now has the time and resources to do so much with them; much more than she could do with us when we were little. They have DVD nights, trips, swimming lessons and above all, lots of one-to-one quality time. I am sure that this is not a unique example and that lots of grandparents do similar. It would be an absolute travesty if all parties, (especially the kids) were to be denied this.

    The current position is not actually in-line with other aspects of child-focused legislation and is not fit for purpose. I do hope that changes are on the horizon.

    DT

  3. JamesB says:

    I agree with that. Grandparents who have fallen out with their children should also have right to apply.

    I also add that if nrps were granted more decent contact then this would not be as much of an issue. I.e. When I don’t get to see my children, neither do my parents.

  4. DT says:

    Hi James

    You said, “Grandparents who have fallen out with their children should also have right to apply.” Do you mean without leave? I wasn’t clear on exactly what you meant; ‘apologies if I’m missing the obvious!

    Grandparents can apply to the courts, regardless as to whether they have fallen out with their own children or not. The likelihood of success is different on a case by case basis as each case turns on it’s own facts. I am of course talking about English law, I cannot comment on Scottish or other law.

    What’s ‘nrps’?

    DT

  5. Dadzarmy says:

    Why are we allowing family relationships to be dictated by the law. It is completely uneccessary result of the failure to ensure that the resident parents do not use their childrent to harm their partner and their partners family. Forcing grandparents to apply to court is CRAZY, this should all be enshrined in law and should just require a little reminder letter to the resident parent to remind them before the grandparent can simply apply for automatic enforcement of contact without a trial.

    Let us have some commonsense please.

  6. DT says:

    I think that ordinarily, family relationships are governed by sense because despite some views, we don’t live in an Orwellian state. 

    The law often has to get involved when things go wrong to ensure that childrens’ interests are observed and that common sense does prevail.

  7. Dadzarmy says:

    I can assure you DT we do live in an Orwellian state, of which you and you and the Family Lawyers are the inner party and we us the outer party. Thanks to the childrens act and its participants our childrens children will enjoy the misery which has been bestowed on them, and they will be thankful because it was in their best interest.

  8. JamesB says:

    Is very worrying that you as an expert in the field doesn’t know that nrp stands for Non Redident Parent.

    In answer to your question, without leave.

  9. DT says:

    ‘Evening James

    I am not an expert. I do however like to learn so thank you for clarifying that for me.

  10. DT says:

    Good evening Dadzarmy

    I suppose the term ‘Orwellian’ is a relative, not to mention subjective term.

    If you think about how the former Easter block was run, then we’re as far from totalitarianism as can be.

    Take Poland for example. Before the fall of the wall, there was an 8pm curfew, and I don’t mean for teenagers! If you were caught out an about, you were arrested. This was pretty much replicated across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

    Things are far from perfect, however, we do live in a democracy, and I count my blessings ever day.

    I’m a pretty positive and optimistic person with a ‘glass half full’ mentality and perhaps that’s why I think as I do.

    I am not part of any “inner party”.

  11. Lukey says:

    Grandparents rights ? What about Uncles and Aunts ?
    Where does it end ?

    Sure, let’s clog up the courts with a myriad of people claiming rights! Good grief, the current legal family law system takes FOREVER to sort out parents rights as it is – I cannot believe anybody seriously wants to prolong that process and make it even more fractious.

    The bottom line is that the parents are financially responsible and almost always one of them wants the responsibility of custody – that’s enough for our sloth like legal system to deal with. I am of course not saying perfect solutions are created but that option went out the window when two adults had a child together and then decided they didn’t like each other very much.

  12. DT says:

    Good evening Lukey

    I have given your comments a great deal of thought throughout today. I think the following phrase sums up exactly what I am trying to articulate:

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    SHAKESPEARE, W: ROMEO AND JULIET (Act II Scene II)

    For anybody unfamiliar with the scene, in essence, Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person and not what the name or title represents.

    In my opinion, the importance of an individual’s role in a child’s life is not necessarily defined by their title, e.g. mum or dad. Mum or dad might not always be able to give the child(ren) what is required, and if that child can get what they need from another caring and loving relative; be that a grandparent, uncle, auntie or cousin, then so be it.

    When I first read your comment, I thought that quite possibly you were right, where does it all end? However, for me, as ever, it comes back to the needs of the child(ren) and whoever is best placed to provide for these needs.

    This is not about wanting to ‘clog up’ the system. If the system is not fit for purpose, then it needs changing. We should not be limiting what it does based upon our perceptions of it’s limitations.

    DT

  13. Lukey says:

    Let me respond to some of these points:

    ===============================
    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
    ===============================
    The problem with such words is that this is the law, not the arts, a grandparent is NOT equivalent to a ‘parent’ unless they are the LEGAL guardian. If you are a parent you have certain responsibilities legally to support that child which other people don’t – and you ARE legally accountable. Grandparents are not.

    =====================================
    In my opinion, the importance of an individual’s role in a child’s life is not necessarily defined by their title
    =====================================
    Well bully for you – but it’s not the law. When the courts start looking for child support they don’t go to the grandparents – and I haven’t heard anybody make such a proposal.

    ==================================
    When I first read your comment, I thought that quite possibly you were right, where does it all end?
    ==================================
    A moment of clear headedness. 🙂

    ==================================
    This is not about wanting to ‘clog up’ the system.
    ==================================
    Maybe not, but that is EXACTLY what you are going to do, a bonanza for the legal system – and how on earth is anybody going to make a judgement on who gets what when a parent is at loggerheads with grandparent(s), it would be a nightmare.

    I have a distant female relative with 2 small children who has requested my help in going through a divorce – it is acriminious and they are having to live in the same house during this period because he is trying to avoid selling as long as possible. She is borderline suicidal because he is so deeply unpleasant (I am only getting her side, but it IS bad).
    The children are being seriously affected by this but she cannot quit the house with them – and do you know how long this could take (according to her lawyer) before she can leave the house under our incompetent money draining legal system ?
    1 and a half YEARS!

    Now, you are telling me that on top of this you want them then to fight out round two with the grandparents as well as any other Tom, Dick or Harry or Harriet who decides they want to stick their oar in.

    I would like a singing ringing tree in my back garden – I don’t mean to be offensive – but your propsal is totally impractical and silly and about as realistic as me getting my tree…

  14. DT says:

    Good afternoon Lukey

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment.

    Of course, you are right; this IS about the law and not about the arts. However, sometimes, it can be useful to use an alternative medium so as to illustrate a principle or moot an idea. Sometimes, a quote or an analogy can really breathe much more life into a concept than a stand-alone explanation, hence why I adopted one here.

    My posting was never about directly comparing a parent to a grandparent, or for that matter any other member of the family.

    What I was trying to convey is that sometimes, the needs of a child (for a whole host of reasons), cannot always be met by a parent, and so if a grandparent (or other family member) can help address these needs, then this has to be good.

    I appreciate that this posting is about grandparents’ rights, however, I do think that it is worth briefly noting that where a parent cannot always give a child what they need, sadly, as a result of this, care proceedings are brought by the Local Authority.

    s31 CA 1989 deals with the test and all too often, “the Threshold” is made out and the child(ren) becomes ‘part of the system’.

    Nobody wants that. However, there are cases where grandparents HAVE played an active part in a their grandchildren’s lives and provided care, support and stability and as a result, matters have consequently not escalated as they might.

    Bringing this back to David’s original posting, I believe that even if parents CAN meet the child’s needs, there is still an important role for grandparents in a child’s life; assuming of course that it is in the child’s best interests.

    We visited family in Yorkshire this weekend and, as I have said before, I think my nephew and niece’s lives are more fulfilled by my mum playing an active part. Yes, she derives a lot of pleasure from the relationship; however, I think they gain a great deal too. They certainly wouldn’t be disadvantaged children or on the edge of care if she wasn’t involved, however, they are without doubt better off for her input and involvement.

    You are of course correct about parents’ responsibilities; however, it’s not entirely true to say that a grandparent is not legally accountable. If the child is with them, they still have a ‘Duty of Care’.

    No, the courts do not go seeking financial support from the grandparents, however, grandparents are not ordinarily seeking to be made primary carers; they are not seeking to raise the child; feed it, house it, put clothes on it’s back etc.

    More often than not, Grandparents are seeking reasonable contact, as determined by the circumstances. What is more, this contact/involvement is likely to enrich and not detract from the child’s life, which is what it is all about.

    I cannot comment on the matter of your distant female relative, however, we have child-focused legislation in this country for a reason, and if Tom or Dick etc., can enhance a child’s life and it is in their best interests, then I think so be it!

    Should we not put things into the court system because there might be something bigger around the corner? Who is to decide? If it’s in the child’s best interests and it cannot be sorted out amicably, then it must go before the court because children come first!

    DT

  15. Lukey says:

    I think I only have to comment on the final point really:

    =================================
    I think iWho is to decide? If it’s in the child’s best interests and it cannot be sorted out amicably, then it must go before the court because children come first!
    =================================

    Again, I can tell you who is going to decide – the parents are going to decide.

    This is because if it can be sorted out amicably the courts need not be involved anyway and if it cannot be sorted out amicably the parents – who as you agree feed them, house them, put clothes on their back etc. are going to decide because if they are at loggerheads with the grandparents and refuse to let the child see them there is nothing the courts can do except punish the parents which effectively punishes the child.

    If the courts make some final judgement on the relationship between the grandparents and the parents and the child (which would be pretty farcical) and try to force the parent to do something they don’t want to do then it will be a disaster for the child because it will get HORRIBLY messy and end up with an emotional war.

    What the Courts need to do is BUTT OUT of problems it cannot solve, not that it will come to that because Governments have looked at this and sensibly decided it is a can of worms they need to avoid at all costs.

    The only people that would benefit from all this nonsense you propose would be lawyers with huge extra fees – everybody else would pay one way or another.

    Isn’t this obvious – how can you not work this out ?

  16. Long Jack says:

    We had regular contact with our grandson through our son. Then our son was tragically killed in a car accident in October and we had contact until Christmas which has now ceased despite our repeated pleas. It is more important than ever that our grandson keeps a tie with his paternal family. We are desperately sad as we feel we’ve lost both our son and grandson.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Long Jack
      I am so sorry to read of your loss. Is there no trusted third party who cannot held to mend the relationship and broker an agreement? If all else fails you can apply to the court.
      Best wishes to you all.
      Marilyn

  17. Olly says:

    I paid privately to get grandmother right to see her grandchild, I was given every third weekend to see my grandson. My sons ex partner has now broken this and I have not seen my grandson since February 2012 and unfortunatly I have to pay to go back to court and as I am working I do not get legal aid, so I cannot afford to pay to go back to court so I have lost all contact with my grandson. It is not fair that you pay out money to see grandson and once it is broken the mother gets away with stopping me from seeing him. I also think it is unfair that the CAFCAS officer at the time has now become friends with the mother. I am a nurse and I no this is unprofessional.

  18. Lukey says:

    I am very sorry Olly that you have lost contact with your grandson, but the courts should not be taking money from you promising to deliver something it should not even be attempting.
    I do think taking the mother to court was probably not a wise move in trying to build a relationship with the child, it is unlikely that the mother took that well.

  19. DT says:

    Lukey

    Nowhere in her comments did Olly say that the court took money in exchange for contact. Courts do not enter into these kinds of arrangements!

    Sadly, with changes to the Legal Aid system, many people now do have to pay, however, there’s still no guarantee of success, and I doubt that anybody would have promised that.

    DT

  20. Observer says:

    David Milburn seems to think it is okay that the alienating parent can extend her (usually a her) alienation to the paternal grandparents, whilst promoting a relationship with the maternal grandparents that is unhealthy in exact proportion to the pathology that is denial of contact.

    The naivete of those who have not yet had the great fortune of experiencing divorce astonishes me!

  21. Lukey says:

    “Nowhere in her comments did Olly say that the court took money in exchange for contact. Courts do not enter into these kinds of arrangements!”
    ======================
    I was looking at the legal system as one entity in this respect – I assume Olly cannot afford to go back to court because of the legal fees that would involve – in my view the whole system is pretty incestuous. There are good people like Marilyn who want to do the right thing, but on the whole the people who work in the legal system seem to want to screw as much money as it can out of people. It is certainly not the only business that does this, sadly to some extent it is human nature, but it is in the strongest position to do so.

    Alienating either set of grandparents is not good in most cases, but if the non-custodial parent has access that need not be the case. Once again the problem here is that you expect our legal system to solve all of life’s problems – it cannot – and frankly I maintain that the main reason it wants to interfere more and more in people’s lives is because the participants within that legal system see rich pickings.

    I think it quite obvious that the most important thing our legal system should do is pressure the government for access to our schools to teach children about the law. It’s a critical no-brainer that we learn more about our legal system from a young age. Why doesn’t it do this ? We never see anything about it, and it’s simply because for people working in the legal system it is financially counter-prtoductive. Put simply, they won’t make any money out of doing it and a more savvy general public will end up in a legal mess far less often, so there will be less work sorting it out !

  22. Shocked.com says:

    Im doing my own research at the moment about my family issues and i think its appalling that from the sounds of it, everyone has rights over my child!
    Myself and possibly the fathers (depending on circumstance) should be the only people to have rights over the child. Why grandparents? Its my child!!
    Me and my partner have been having problems, his mother heard about it and for some unknown reason she rang social services. She has just come out of a mental institution and my child is 7months and the grandmother never saw my daughter for the first 4 – 5 months! But she has automatic rights to my daughter? I dont even know her and know shes just come out of a mental institution it scares me. she wouldnt know what my child wants or needs are, she doesnt even know her middle name or anything!
    I think theres something wrong with this law.
    NO-ONE apart from the parents should have legal rights!
    One day hopefully i will be a grandparent, but if it was up to my child’s grandmother, my child might not be with me now!
    If the parents of the child say no, its a NO! the parents are doing whats in their childs best interest, who are you to think you know whats best when your not there 24/7.
    Feel bad for grandparents that are involved but if you arent, stay out of it, might be your blood but its their child.
    How would you feel if u were the parents and your child grandparents where doing this to you? would be completely different!!
    Leave us good, trustworthy, reliable, been there from the start parents do our best for OUR CHILDREN and leave us alone!

  23. DT says:

    Shocked.com

    Everyone does not have rights over your child – that’s the point!

    Nevertheless, I think you do make some interesting and valid arguments.

    However, you have to remember what all of this is about – not you, not the grandparents etc. – but what is best for the children; that is the crux of the issue, the children every-time.

    I should say that I don’t have children and so I can’t speak from a parental position, however, I do, in my humble opinion, think that it’s right that the children come first. Whether this is achieved with or with grandparent contact is assessed on a case by case basis where necessary- there aren’t automatic rights.

    Grandparents don’t have automatic rights – far from it; they have to jump through a lot of hoops if contact is being denied and they wish to maintain/establish it. Grandparents have to apply to court to see if they can make an application; it’s far from easy for them! 

    Nonetheless, I do understand what you are saying.

    DT

  24. DT says:

    This is one of those articles which makes me think every time I read and re-read it.

    Sometimes, I possess immoveable ideas about things, but this, like an increasing number of articles on this blog, makes me not only think, but also question what I previously thought and why. 

    Since I started reading these articles, I’m finding that my views on so many matters are changing, shifting and transient. 

    Sometimes I think one way based upon my own experiences (professional and personal), and then other times , I read another view and I’m left pondering; (I’m doing more U-Turns than the Tory party)!

    That’s probably why I find the blog a bit addictive actually.

  25. Observer says:

    DT writes – “However, you have to remember what all of this is about – not you, not the grandparents etc. – but what is best for the children; that is the crux of the issue, the children every-time.”

    Do you honestly believe that anyone in the industry cares about what is best for the children? Anyone observing knows that this could not be further from the truth.

    To continue speaking of “rights” is just to distort and misrepresent matters, in the way that the media does.

    Grandparents do not care about “rights.” Nor do fathers. What they care about is that the child knows that they love them too, in spite of the alienation to which the Resident Parent subjects them.

    Please let’s drop the whole “rights” rhetoric, which is nothing but an effort to misrepresent the paternal grandparents as suffering from the same controlling behavior that all dads apparently suffer from.

  26. DT says:

    Observer

    Yes, I do believe (and know) that there are many, many people in the legal profession who care passionately about what is best for children – I suspect you know a few too.

    You can scoff all you like, but practicing the law relating to children is often very harrowing and emotionally draining and certainly not undertaken on a whim. It’s not a job – it’s a vocation.

    There are a lot of lawyers who care fervently about rights (childrens/parents/grandparents) and yes, they are rights, and will do all they can to protect and promote these rights because they genuinely care.

    Once again, I do not recognise the world you observe.

    DT

  27. Observer says:

    DT –

    Of course you don’t recognize the world. You are paid handsomely not to.

    And the secrecy of the family courts means that those without ample experience also do not recognize the world for what it is.

    It is the secrecy of these courts that drives parents to lobby their MPs persistently, and this is why even the world’s most conservative government recognizes that, in light of the endless complaints about what Bob Geldof calls “state-sponsored child abuse,” the family justice system is untenable.

    P.S. We all recognize that there are several lawyers who practice ethically. There is no doubt about that. These are the ones who turn down fees and diminish the performance of their firms when they spot dishonesty, manipulation, and malice, rather than drawing these out, drawing out litigation over years, and drawing a healthy profit for the firm.

    There can be no doubt that there are good lawyers. But they usually find themselves unemployed, soon after developing a conscience.

  28. DT says:

    Observer

    How on earth do you know what I’m paid?!

    I’m glad that you acknowledge that some lawyers are ethical.

  29. Annon says:

    It has been interesting reading this article although I missed the programme. However as a grandmother and mother I have twice in my life found myself involved with child contact issues. It is probably one of the most stressful things any mother or grandmother has to go through.

    My first instance was regarding contact with my daughter which was reasonably resolved via the courts.

    My second situation involves my daughter and her mother-in-law who attempted to abduct the child when it was 4 months old and my daughter had to get a court order to get the child back. Even with the court order the woman had to be arrested as she would not comply with the order. Since then she had no contact with the child. Now the child is nearly 3 years old and she is seeking contact through the courts. As you can imagine my daughter is extremely stressed by this situation especially as the courts are ruling that she must try mediate with this woman of face being fined or imprisoned as she refuses to have this woman go anywhere near the child after what has happened in the past especially as she has a restraining order against the woman.

    As the other grandmother I have a really strong relationship and bond with my grandchild due to regular contact with the child over the past few years. However this woman hasn’t as the last time she saw him he was only 4 months old. Thus he wouldn’t even know who she is and likewise she would be a total stranger to the him.

    As a grandmother myself I think it is good that there are laws to enable grandparents to have contact with their grandchildren, however given a situation like this I feel the courts are being unfair to my daughter forcing her to establish contact with a woman she neither likes, trusts or want near her child. Even more so I feel they are causing both my daughter and grandson undue emotional stress forcing the issue. It is in situations like this where I think the law needs to be more clearer e.g. if a parent has a restraining order against a grandparent (or any other person) then that should be adhered to over and above request for contact or at least it should be questioned as to whether it is in the best interest of the child in such cases????

  30. Child abuse says:

    Grandparents should not have an automatic right, in fact nor should the parents when they are violent and abusive towards the children.

    The paternal grandmother of my child is currently seeking access to my 4 year old son, unsupervised overnight stays.
    She is the devil herself. She has a history of physical and mental abuse of her own children and started doing the same to my son, hence contact was ceased.

    Now, she is claiming that she has never done any such thing and am looking for unsupervised overnight stays with my son. Does anyone really expect any sain mother to leave their 4 year old with a woman who will stress them out so much that they start crying when she tells him that mummy and daddy don’t care about you, they never wanted you, I am the only one who care about you, you mother and father are evil, if you don’t do what I tell you you will grow up and be bad and evil just like them and on top of that will smack my 4 year old in his face or beat him with belts or curtain poles when she get’s angry?????

    She is an evil, manipulative and violent woman whose roots are from an underdeveloped culture and she is taking a no less than sick and morbid advantage of a grandparent law that encourages positive relationships between children and grandparents.

    I hope to God that this woman does not succeed in court, if she does, I fear that I will end up the next distraught parent who will create the next Sarah’s Law in relations to child abuse.

  31. Observer says:

    Ah, it all makes sense now. Men were only ever ignoramus scapegoats for what are ultimately cat-fights. And the way to keep your children away from an abusive grandmother was to simply go to court and blame dad, since that sounds much more believable, especially as we have lawyers who repeatedly spew nonsense about how bad men are.

  32. Ruth says:

    sons girlfriend abusing grandchildren. I went to court for contact, she slandered and lied, distressed all the children, and groomed the 11 year old to lie to cafcass, with full support from social services. my 2 and 4 year old grandchildren have lost their entire family, and only safety net for the whole of their life. I have lost my grandchildren for the whole of my life. family friend, unknown to me phoned social services as we witnessed much abuse of grandchildren, and I had been threatened not to interfere. social breached anonimity, causing banned contact with grandchildren, they have continued, a massive cover up, and fully suported the abuser, leaving children exposed with no safety net and no family. I am distraught beyond words, can’t find a way to my grandchildren to help keep them safe, and no one will take on social services. The abuse very similar to Daniel Pelka and no one will help me. they all write LIES . I dont know who else to turn to for help. I have written to everybody, and provided much evidence, they all reply with rubbish and drivel. no one will take on social services, they confidently, write lies, dismissed 5 witnesses and ALL evidence and nobody cares! can you help me?

  33. vob re says:

    A Grandparents instinct towards the grandchildren should
    never be underestimated. You now feel powerless. Do not despair look at the positives. it is early days , you haven’t
    like many Grandparents lost the children by forced adoption.

    There are independent social workers who do not work for the Local Authority and Solicitors who specialize in helping Grandparents.

    Lies and abuse will always be unearthed.

  34. Louise says:

    I’m going through this atm my partner and I have told his mum no contact with our daughter who is 8 months old be ause she drinks smokes drugs has a colourful past assaulted my partner and threatened me we denied contact now she is attempting the court I’m torn apart that this woman could end up with contact with my daughter.. What are my chances she won’t? I’m so angry that grandparents have the right to apply when she gas never had Amy contact with my daughter and she won’t be benefit from a relationship with her ? In these circumstances I don’t believe she should have the right the only time I see grandparents having rights is if they have had contact for years and are part of the child’s life and upbringing

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