18% of grandparents rarely see their grandchildren

Research has highlighted the diversity of the roles that grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.

Many families in the UK rely on grandparents for childcare and financial support. 20 per cent of grandparents reported that they spend time caring for their grandchildren; research suggests that the unpaid childcare provided by grandparents would cost parents approximately £3.9 billion a year.

If grandparents are still working, their working hours can be affected by childcare, and there have even been calls from grandparent’s rights groups for parental leave to be extended to working grandparents.

Significantly, five per cent of grandparents said that they were the main carer for one or more of their grandchildren. This can occur if parents are unable to look after their children, or if children are to be taken into care before being placed with a grandparent. Grandmothers were more likely to be the main carer of a grandchild; 11 per cent reported this, compared to only one per cent of grandfathers.

In contrast to this, the research also revealed that 18% of grandparents reported that they rarely or never see their grandchildren. This can be due to the denial of access to grandchildren following a divorce or separation; an unintended consequence of a family breakdown.

The rights of grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren can be complex, as they have no automatic rights to see their grandchildren following a parental breakup, but they can obtain a court order to do so. This is a two-step process; the first step is an application for permission to apply, and if this is approved then the application for a court order can be made. The court’s decision will be based upon the best interest of the child. It is best to avoid creating tension within the family and to try and make arrangements informally with the child’s parents before a court order, although this is not always possible.

Campaigners for grandparent’s rights have called for a change in this law, but proposals for grandparents to have a legal right to see their grandchildren after a separation have not been approved because of fears that it would overcomplicate court proceedings.

Grandparents play an important role in a child’s life. Research has suggested that there is a link between the wellbeing of a child or teenager and the amount of time that they spend with a grandparent. 27 per cent of 11 to 16 year olds in the UK admitted that they are able to talk to their grandparents about things that they cannot with their parents; this was 35 per cent for a grandmother.

In response to the research the chief executive of Grandparents Plus, Sam Smethers, said in the Daily Mail that: ‘”Overwhelmingly, the grandparent/grandchild relationship is good for children, and research shows that spending time caring for grandchildren is good for grandparents too. We need to do more to value and support this important relationship.”

Grandparents can provide crucial emotional support to their grandchildren during their parent’s divorce or separation, as they are a close family member but someone who is separate to their parents.

It is important for you to receive legal advice if arrangements in respect of your grandchildren are not being agreed, so you can understand which options are available to you. Mediation is a highly recommended option, as it is best to avoid making an application to the court as not only are court proceedings expensive, they can also be lengthy. The Family team at Macks can advise you of the options available to you.

Macks Solicitors have acted for a number of grandparents over the years and it is important for parents to understand that they play an important role in their children’s lives. A lot of grandparents give up their time and money that they have saved up for retirement to care for their grandchildren as the need arises and we believe that their role should not be underestimated. Agreeing arrangements for the children to see their grandparents in time of separation and or divorce could be the stability that a child needs at that difficult time therefore these relationships should be nurtured. We appreciate that there are cases where grandparents cannot spend time with their children for one reason or the other and of course the children’s safety and welfare must always come first in those circumstances.”

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