Law Change Proposals Could Affect Grandparents’ Rights Following Divorce
Divorce is a troubling and emotionally stressful process that can tear families apart and cause huge disruptions. There are many different processes involved in a divorce and much more to consider than you may first think of. You may have to consider custody of children, child support, ownership of property and your estate, legal fees and a whole host of other factors.
One factor that is often overlooked, but can prove difficult is the right of grandparents to see their grandchildren. This is not something that is at the forefront of people’s minds when processing a divorce, but it is nonetheless an important factor. This article looks at proposed new laws that could be brought in, that could change the legal process for grandparents wishing to see their grandchildren after a divorce.
Grandparents Are Affected In Divorce
Before we look at the current and proposed new legal system surrounding this issue, it is important to understand why it matters. During a divorce, whole families are affected – we have to remember that it is not just the spouses and children – other family members including grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins, for example, can also be affected.
These family members often have a vested interest in the divorcing couple’s children. It is not the grandparent’s fault that their child has divorced their partner, nor should this really tar their relationship with their grandchildren.
Many grandparents would still want to be a part of their grandchild’s life even after a divorce, therefore, this is why it often becomes a legal issue. For instance one of the involved spouses may not want their child to maintain contact with the other spouse’s parents, but the grandparents in question may still want to maintain contact. When this is the case, legal action has to be taken as part of the divorce proceedings.
The Current Situation and Law?
**Main point – the current law states that grandparents, aunties and uncles do not have an automatic right to maintain contact with their grandchildren/nieces/nephews**
If one of the spouses wishes to deny grandparents, aunties or uncles the right to see their children and the relatives wish to contest this, the relatives must apply for access rights. This is done through the courts and can be a costly and lengthy procedure and it can cause a great deal of heartache, stress and monetary loss.
The relatives must make an application to the family courts and complete a C100 form – this is effectively an application for permission to apply for a contact order – not an application for contact itself. If this initial application is approved, the relatives can then process the actual contact order application. As you can see, this is a drawn out process and can add a heap of unnecessary time and effort into the already complicated divorce proceedings.
Obviously if both parents involved in the divorce agreement that grandparents can maintain contact then there is no issues – the law only applies if there are a disagreement and contention.
What Could the New Law Entail?
Recently, the House of Commons has debated the current law and various MP’s such as Nigel Huddleston have commented on the lengthy process, and the consequences it can have on family relations, and on the children themselves. Some have even said that denying grandparent’s access to see their grandchildren could be considered a form of living bereavement that can cause great emotional turmoil.
MPs are now discussing a potential amendment to the law that gives a child the inherent right to maintain a relationship and contact with their grandparents, and aunties and uncles. The current system would still be in place, but if a child wanted to maintain contact then the parents would be legally obliged to let them. Obviously, the details of this potential amendment are still unclear, and it could be some time before something is set in stone, but this is certainly a welcomed discussion. Current justice minister Lucy Frazer has also stated that a change in the law could be considered and that the system could work better.
What Impact Could This Have on Divorce Proceedings
If an amendment to the law was to pass, it could have huge ramifications for the divorce process and the aftermath of divorces. This would give grandparents and other close family members a glimmer of hope, and provide them with a means to see the involved spouse’s children. It could cause a great deal of heartache and emotional upheaval. Furthermore, it could also provide greater stability for children after a divorce and allow them to maintain a relationship with their grandparents.
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