UK Review Backs Grandparents Rights after Divorce
According to a government review in the U.K., the legal role of grandparents should be changed when dealing with their own children’s divorces and any grandchildren that might be involved. The government review included proposals for family law reform that said relationships with grandparents need to be included in agreements concerning the future of grandchildren following a divorce, but the grandparents would not have rights of contact set down in law.
The review supports a faster family court system to help simplify the current tangle of different agencies and courts that can be complex, slow, and very expensive. The review also proposed establishment of a national family justice board with a single court system and specialist judges hearing that would each case from start to finish. The government proposal recommends the role of grandparents should be added to Parenting Agreements without having to go to court. The review stressed that the importance of relationships with parents, grandparents and other relatives, and friends valued by the child, would be included in parenting Agreements as well. The review panel also recommended less reliance on unnecessary expert reports that cause unnecessary delays, especially when dealing with children who might be in danger
Although many people see the proposed changes as good news and that grandparents should have rights to see their grandchildren, especially when they are often unpaid child care givers and full participants in the grandchildren’s lives, not everyone agrees and some critics have said establishing grandparents legal rights was approaching the situation from the wrong perspective. Some pointed out that right now in the U.K. divorced fathers find it very difficult to get to spend enough time with their children as they are often forced into reduced visitation rights that amount to just one day a week and some holiday time at best. The critics question the suggestion that grandparent need to be included in custody and visitation agreements when current law already lets children down by preventing them from seeing both of their parents equally.
The most strident critics say the report is disingenuous and side steps the real issue and that although children are the most important people in the family justice system, the system is under huge strain. Add the fact that almost all divorce cases take far too long to settle and delays are common, the result is children who sometimes wait more than a year for their future to be settled. At present, the U.K. divorce laws seem to generally decide that children of divorce will live in one home with their mother and that their fathers have far less contact. This creates a situation where the paternal side of extended family has less opportunity to maintain their relationship with the children.
The climate of disagreement will likely continue throughout a period of public consultation on the panel’s recommendations before the final report is issued in December.