MckenzieBlog

Grandparent’s Rights

by McKenzie on November 3, 2009

in England and Wales Family Law,McKenzie Friend Comment

A family law blog that I think is going to be a major player in the coming years (if maintained) is Wigless- A Student Barristers take on the Family Bar

One post I have been watching for comment has been the post here, on Grandparental Rights from October 26th.

Like Dinky Barrister I hope that the Tories deliver on the promise to ensure that grandparents no longer have to go through the pretty pointless process of seeking leave to bring an application for Residence or Contact. For goodness sake the test is merely that they have an arguable case, not that the application will be successful at final hearing; so it has never been an effective barrier to those grandparents who have some childcare history with the child(ren). In my view it is an entirely otiose step that runs contrary to the no delay principle.

In my experience those treated worst are litigant in person grandparents, with a number of cases that I have been involved in still keeping me awake at night, months and years later.

One female judge recently made it crystal clear that even though the grandparents were arguably at least joint carers of a child in his infancy and beyond, that they must now be happy with the type and quantum of contact that the father of the child says they should have. The father is also a litigant in person and frankly he is getting responsibilities above his abilities after the child was removed from the mother. Amongst other failings this model (sic) father denied parentage of the child, was adjudged to have made masturbatory noises down the phone to mother, and was still awarded residence! It just shows that men can be as bad as women when awarded residence.

Incidentally I tried for ages to get a journalist to come along to the case above as I could not believe what was happening, without success. I will be posting on the lack of journalistic cover in the family courts in a day or two. And I have to say that the Grandparent’s Association were next to useless in assisting this couple who were members of the GA.

Even though Dinky correctly draws our attention to the indisputable fact that the current crop of grandparents are getting younger and therefore more than capable of remaining involved in the subject children’s lives for some considerable time, there are a huge swathe of grandparents out there in their early to mid 60’s who are treated as less than second class citizens by both the process and the judges. I always wondered whether some public schoolboy and schoolgirl judges ‘get’ the fact that grandparents want to be as involved as they can be, even after taking early retirement.

Another oft forgotten element is the hierarchy of grandparents post separation, with more often than not the Maternal Grandparents getting any amount of contact that they can handle, even if they never bothered with the child(ren) before the split.  The poor dad’s parents and extended family get the crumbs, often piggy backing onto the fathers contact. Problem with that approach is that if dad encounters a recalcitrant mother and finds himself in a contact centre, the extended family generally get zero contact until dad can get an order that is complied with , and that doesn’t restrict the contact environment. Rarely do I hear a judge of his or hear own motion asking about the state of contact with the extended family, and challenging mother about why contact is not happening with the paternal grandparents. I can safely say that this is a systemic criticism of all the jurisdictions that I work in.

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