A recent government review on family justice led by David Norgrove, has recommended that grandparents should be included in agreements on their grandchildrens’ future. At the present time grandparents have no legal right of access to their grandchildren following a family breakdown.
In 2009, 114,000 divorces were registered in England and Wales and figures suggest that around half of grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren after divorce or separation – and it is usually the ‘in-laws’ that are shunned.
Head of the Family Team, Julie-Ann Harris, explains “One of the key items of the review is the suggestion for Parenting Agreements, which would focus on the importance of childrens’ relationships with both parents, grandparents and other family members. It is hoped that these agreements can be achieved without the need to go to the courts. Although grandparents are to be included, their rights of contact would not be set down in law.”
Mr. Norgrove, chair of the Family Justice Review Panel, said talk of ‘grandparents’ legal rights’ was approaching the situation from the wrong perspective. He said “We don’t come at this from the rights of adults. We are approaching this from the best interests of the children.”
To end the present confusion of different agencies and courts the interim report recommends a simplified and speeded up process. A new family justice service is proposed with a unified courts system and specialist judges hearing each case from start to finish. Mr Norwood said that the year he spent interviewing children, parents and people working in the sector, had convinced him that the present system was not working and was “complex, very slow and very expensive”.
If you have any concerns about this subject, please do not hesitate to contact Julie-Ann or her team on 01202 499255.