Will you see your grandchildren this Christmas?

15th December 2015

With Christmas approaching and arrangements to see family and friends in progress, if your children have separated or divorced, you may be concerned about whether you will get to spend time with your grandchildren over this holiday period.

The question of where the children will spend Christmas day is always a difficult one for families that separate. If you have strong traditions or religious beliefs it may be important to you how Christmas is celebrated and you may want your grandchildren with you at specific family events.

Cheryl Haywood, specialist family lawyer at Ansons Solicitors advises “Whilst the arrangements between the children and their parents may still be in dispute, there should be no reason for grandparents to feel they have to wait for the dust to settle before asking to see their grandchildren in their own right.”

Although grandparents are not automatically entitled to contact, the family courts increasingly recognise the important role grandparents play in the lives of children, providing a source of comfort and stability at a difficult time in the child’s life.

The family court system exists to assist families, including wider family members such as grandparents and resolve disputes about the care and upbringing of children. There is a greater emphasis on families to try and resolve the dispute themselves in the event of a divorce or separation.

As children often stay with their mother after a divorce or separation, paternal grandparents may face harder obstacles to gaining contact especially if there is a new partner on the scene. A parent who has sole care may have moved away without informing you, leaving you unsure about how to get Christmas cards and presents to the children.

Problems can also arise for grandparents where one parent wants to set conditions on the contact arrangements, for example preventing your son or daughter from spending time alone with the children or in your presence. This can cause difficulties, but the only binding conditions are those set out by a court. Where there is a court order in place, grandparents should exercise care to keep to the terms set. In all other situations, the reasonableness and practicality of contact arrangements should be regularly reviewed.

In some cases grandparents are expected to bear the burden of increased travel costs, which can prove difficult for pensioners especially over winter. With fragile relationships at stake, grandparents might be wary about rocking the boat.

This is where a family law solicitor can be useful. In the first instance, a simple letter can break the ice and set out your wishes to maintain contact with your grandchildren. Your solicitor can also advise you on your rights and the appropriateness of any conditions on the contact and initiate negotiations for change.

Alternatively, a mediator can provide a neutral setting for discussion with the parents and could be an opportunity to review the arrangements for seeing your grandchildren and overcome any obstacles.

As a last resort you might consider a court application. Grandparents are not automatically allowed to apply for a ‘child arrangements order’ (previously called a contact or residence order); they have to ask the court for permission to apply first.

If you are a grandparent and you are concerned about arrangements with your grandchildren, you should seek specialist legal advice from an experienced family solicitor.

For advice on any family law matter contact Cheryl Haywood, family law solicitor at Ansons Solicitors, contact her on 01543 431 996 or email . Ansons Solicitors have offices in Lichfield and Cannock.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.