An Essex couple spent more than £30,000 on legal fees in an unsuccessful attempt to keep their granddaughters in the country.
Chris and Dawn Clark’s son Delwyn met his Brazilian partner Camila while working in Australia. In May 2012, he moved back to England with her and their two daughters. The family moved into the Clarks’ home, where they were able to spend time with their grandchildren. As neither of the girls’ parents was working at that time, Mr Clark supported them financially.
The relationship between Delwyn and Camila soon began to break down and, in 2013, she moved out of the house. Shortly afterwards, she announced her intention to return to Australia with the girls. As Delwyn objected to her plans, she hired a lawyer.
The Children Act 1989 states that, in situations like this one, parents and children have a right to be heard but grandparents do not. As a result, Mr Clark was not allowed in court and the only contribution he could make was a brief statement about how much he cared for his granddaughters.
Mr and Mrs Clark wanted to prevent the relocation but, even though they were not a part of the legal process, it proved very expensive. Talking to the Daily Mail, Mrs Clark said that Camila “made all sorts of allegations against [Delwyn], and in the end we had to hire a barrister. That’s when the money started being spent”.
The judge ruled that the girls’ mother could take them to Australia, which she did ten days later. Since their move, the Clarks have only had three video calls with their granddaughters.
Grandparents who use the legal system to try and win more time with their grandchildren are very common in the UK. Earlier this year, government figures revealed that as many as seven grandparents every day apply for child contact orders.