MPs seek to guarantee grandparents' rights to see children

Cross-party support to enshrine children’s rights to a relationship with extended family members

The right of a grandparent to see their grandchildren after a divorce should be enshrined within law, MPs have said.

There is cross-party support for an amendment to the Children Act, which would refer to a youngster’s right to have a relationship with close members of their extended family, it has been reported.

This would include aunts and uncles having access to their nephews and nieces.

Currently, a relative must apply to a court for access rights, then for a child arrangement order (CAO) to be put in place, which costs time and money in legal fees.

The issue was debated in the Commons last week, with the Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston saying he had heard stories of grandparents who have tried to send birthday cards or Christmas gifts to their grandchildren and found themselves being visited by the police and accused of harassment.

He said: “Divorce and family breakdown can take an emotional toll on all involved, but the family dynamic that is all too often overlooked is that between grandparents and their grandchildren.

“When access to grandchildren is blocked, some grandparents call it a kind of living bereavement.”

Fellow Conservative Tim Loughton pointed out there was a “supposition that the parents should both be as involved as possible in their children’s upbringing”.

He asked if “it would be equally appropriate to have a presumption that grandparents should be involved as much as possible in the upbringing of those children, unless – and only unless – there is a problem with the welfare of that child?”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The welfare of a child is the primary consideration for the family courts and steps are taken wherever possible to reduce the impact of family conflict on children when relationships end.

“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 looked at.”


Jamie Grierson and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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