Role Of Grandparents In Children’s Lives ‘Cannot Be Lost During Separation’

Family Law Experts React To Figures Showing Increase In Contact Concerns


Specialist family lawyers have urged couples going through a divorce to ensure the important role that grandparents play in the lives of children is not forgotten, after new research highlighted an increase in the number seeking guidance on contact issues.

According to figures from the Grandparents Association seen by the BBC, its helpline took 8,432 calls across 2014/15 and more than eight in ten calls related to relationship breakdown were linked to circumstances in which they were concerned after a son had split from a partner or wife.

Following the release of the research, Alison Hawes, a Partner and family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, has urged couples seeking a separation to not just think about the consequences on their children, but also the implications that a split could have on grandparents.

Expert Opinion
"These figures have placed an important emphasis on the difficult position that grandparents can be placed in when their sons or daughters chooses to separate from their partners.

"This is far from an uncommon issue as we have seen numerous cases in which grandparents have simply been denied any form of relationship with their grandchildren as a result of separation – whether it is divorce affecting a married couple or a split involving a cohabiting couple.

"The role that grandparents play in the lives of children cannot be underestimated,, with key examples of support including providing childcare so parents can work and also stepping into the breach to be primary carers should parents be unable to do so. Separate research carried out in 2011 showed that 1 in 3 mothers relied on grandparents to care for their grandchildren so they could return to work. That’s a significant percentage and a couple going through family breakdown needs support from all quarters rather than families ‘taking sides’.

"Not having access to grandparents can have a major impact on children, as it could hinder them in terms of understanding their full family tree and background. In addition, it can also leave grandparents in a great amount of emotional turmoil.

"Generally, the courts will want to support grandparents to have a meaningful relationship with their grandchildren where that is going to benefit those children and we would urge anyone facing these types of issues to seek legal advice so they can understand their options to secure contact. Sometimes, however strongly a grandparent might feel, staying neutral is the best way to provide emotional support and stay in touch with grandchildren they love.

"In addition, we would urge anyone going through the pain of separation to think about the wider impact of their plans – not just on their children but other people in their family."
Alison Hawes, Partner