Families and Grandparents Themselves Can Take Steps To Protect The Role They Play In The Event Of Relationship Breakdown
For Grandparents’ Day this year (3 October), family law specialists at Irwin Mitchell are raising awareness of steps that families and grandparents can take to protect themselves in the event of relationship breakdown.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS)’ recent analysis of labour markets found at age 50, 17.9% of women were economically inactive versus 9.6% of men. At age 64 years, this increased to 58.6% of women versus 44.9% of men.
There are many possible reasons for this, but one in particular is the amount of older people who support their children and grandchildren with childcare due to skyrocketing childcare costs.
There’s also the financial support grandparents provide to consider: a recent survey by financial adviser Killik & Co found that 48 per cent of grandparents have increased financial support to grandchildren during the pandemic.
Family law experts at Irwin Mitchell say that even if grandparents are happy to help, they should consider protecting their own position.
Expert Opinion“In recent years there’s been a very significant increase in the percentage of grandparents who provide hands-on, sometimes daily childcare for their grandchildren – and those who provide crucial financial support for their children and grandchildren.
“Grandparents are often happy to provide that key financial support, but many also wish to protect themselves in the event their child or grandchild’s relationship comes to an end. For example, if they are putting down the deposit on their grandchild’s house they want to make sure that grandchild’s partner or spouse can’t walk away with half.
“I can say that I’ve seen an increasing number of parents and grandparents being drawn into the divorces of the younger generation, and this can be a hugely upsetting, stressful and expensive process.
“The key is to take early advice on protective tools such as cohabitation and pre/post nuptial agreements. It’s important to have open and clear discussions so that everyone is on the same page.” Sarah Balfour - Partner
If and when a separation occurs, grandparents also want the reassurance that they won’t be pushed out of the frame and that they will be able to continue to see and spend quality time with their grandkids.
As a result, child arrangements orders relating to grandparents are becoming increasingly common. These can be applied for through the courts specifying how and when grandparents can spend time with their grandchildren.
For those grandparents who can’t see their grandchildren as much as they like, out of court dispute resolution can be a constructive way forward. Options include mediation, where a neutral third-party mediator talks through the issues with two or more parties, or arbitration, which provides a judgment at the end of the process.
Sarah added: “We mustn’t underestimate how important a role grandparents play in families – and we mustn’t take it for granted. It can’t be a one way relationship where they give and we simply take. We need to do all we can to respect and protect them.”