Divorce doesn’t just affect the couple, but also the children and extended family. Any grandparents who have had reduced contact with grandchildren after the parents have divorced will know this keenly.
However, the law is on the side of grandparents and recognises the rights of children to have relationships with their grandparents, even if contact is greatly reduced for the parent. If you are worried about not being able to see your grandchildren then there are several steps to take to ensure you can continue to have a relationship with them, even if your child now has greatly reduced contact.
Understand the situation
Try and gain as much of an unbiased understanding of the parents’ situation as you can. Find out what has happened that has lead to the relationship break-up to try to understand why the other parent may find it difficult to allow you to form a relationship with your grandchildren.
You may find that when you approach the other parent that they are absolutely fine and you can continue your relationship with your grandchildren like normal. However, if this is not the case and you do end up needing the assistance of a family lawyer then it is best to have records of attempted communication. Jot down when you have spoken on the phone or in person and save emails, texts and letters.
Start communications positively
It is best to try to open up communications and even if you have enlisted the help of a family lawyer, do not mention this straightaway. Explain how much you would like to see your grandchildren, offer any help and explain that you respect the situation with your child. How you communicated before the break up will have affect how you choose to do this.
If you communicated openly, a phone call will be sufficient, otherwise email or a letter.
Suggest practical steps forward
Opening up communication is the first step, but you will need to move forward from that. Suggest some practical things, such as inviting them over or going for an outing and say how keen you are to establish a routine for contact with your grandchildren so the parent knows that this is something you wish to sort out.
Don’t give up
Give the parent time to respond and don’t give up at the first hurdle. Don’t be pushy, but showing how committed you are to the grandchildren will help you to win their trust. Remember the children’s birthdays and send Christmas gifts as well.
Enlist the help of a family solicitor
Once you are certain that you will get nowhere without legal help, don’t push the parent anymore as this can aggravate the situation. Instead enlist the help of a family solicitor. A specialist will be able to help you establish contact with your grandchildren.
Don’t jump straight to the courts
Although you can go to court over contact with grandchildren, there is no need to jump straight there. It can be expensive and stressful to go to court, so you don’t want to do it unless you have to.
You can try using mediation to come to an agreement with the parent. You can go through mediation with the support of a solicitor and a family mediator has the experience and knowledge to help you.
If you do end up going to court, do all you can to stay calm and focussed. Use your solicitor for communication rather than communicating directly with the parent. Put the welfare of your grandchildren at the centre of the case and remember that the law is on your side.