Grandparents may get greater rights to see their grandchildren
Grandparents may be granted stronger legal rights to see their grandchildren under proposals being considered by Prime Minister Theresa May and the Ministry of Justice.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said her department was considering changing the law so there is a “presumption” that grandparents should be able to see their grandchildren unless there are reasons against them doing so.
Under the present system, grandparents must apply to court for "child arrangement orders" if family disputes arise. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that 2,000 grandparents applied in 2016. That’s a 25% increase on the year before.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We will consider any proposals for helping children maintain involvement with grandparents, together with other potential reforms to the family justice system which are currently being looking at.”
It’s understood that the proposals would require judges to give greater weight to the rights of grandparents, and the potential benefits of contact to the grandchildren.
Ms Frazer told the Daily Telegraph that she would consider whether there needs to be "a change in the law in relation to presumption” to see if grandparents needed more rights.
She added that any reforms should not risk creating unintended consequences: "It is clear that the system could work better, and I am keen to look into how we can improve it."
Speaking in the House of Commons, Theresa May said that the government would look carefully at the issue of legal rights for grandparents.
She said: "Grandparents do play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren. We can all, I am sure, sympathise with those who experience the anguish of being prevented from seeing their grandchildren if a parental relationship ends.
"Of course, when making decisions about a child’s future, the first consideration must be their welfare, but the law already allows family courts to order that a child should spend time with their grandparents."
We shall keep clients informed of developments.
Please contact Kirsty Bowers or Carey Vigor if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.