Government set to review grandparents legal rights

Government ministers are considering changing divorce laws that would hand grandparents a legal right to see their grandchildren after a family split.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer has agreed to review the rules that will allow grandchildren to maintain contact with grandparents after parental separation following pressure from MPs and campaign groups.

The groups want the Children Act to be amended, which would include a child’s right to have a close relationship with members of their extended family including covering aunts and uncles.

The current rules mean relatives must apply to the court to gain access rights and then have a child arrangement order put in place.

Around two thousand applications are made by cut off family members to see younger relatives each year as they have no automatic rights.

New research has suggested up to a million grandchildren are split from grandparents following family separation or bereavement.

The Justice Minister said: “Grandparents play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, and I sympathise with those who experience the anguish of being prevented from seeing their grandchildren if a parental relationship ends.

“I am looking at what measures the Government could take to help more grandchildren maintain contact with grandparents following parental separation and will make an announcement about the Government’s plans in due course.”

TV presenter Esther Ranzen, the founder of ChildLine, is among those campaigning to change the law.

She said: “Many young people who contact ChildLine, often when things go badly wrong, look to grandparents as a safe place where they receive unconditional love.

“It is a terribly important relationship. These days, with increasing amounts of parental break up, sometimes an angry parent will refuse grandparents access.

“We want grandchildren to have a presumed right of access to their extended family as is the case in France.”

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Alison Green
Alison joined Mackrell Turner Garrett in 1989 and qualified as a solicitor in 1991, becoming a partner in the firm in 2010. Her expertise covers matrimonial work, including divorce and the associated financial and children issues; pre and post-nuptial agreements; co-habitation disputes; civil partnership agreements and the breakdown of civil partnerships.