More grand­par­ents fight­ing for con­tact with grand­chil­dren as court cases surge

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT any ve y? We ve t ogether

A RIS­ING num­ber of grand­par­ents are go­ing to court to win the right to see their grand­chil­dren, fig­ures show.

Sta­tis­tics from the Min­istry of Jus­tice show that al­most 2,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for child ar­range­ment or­ders, which give fam­ily mem­bers the right to see a child, were made by grand­par­ents in 2016. This has risen from 1,617 in 2014.

The fig­ures show that more than 1,000 ap­pli­ca­tions were made be­tween Jan­uary and June last year, sug­gest­ing that 2017’s fig­ures were set to out­strip the pre­vi­ous year’s sta­tis­tics.

Over­all fig­ures from the MoJ show that the num­ber of pri­vate court ap­pli­ca­tions in­volv­ing chil­dren had risen by 14.6 per cent over two years, from 45,490 in 2015 to 52,168 last year.

Fam­ily lawyers said the court cases were most likely to be driven by grand­par­ents on the fa­ther’s side as fa­thers were less likely to have cus­tody of the child and their fam­i­lies strug­gled to main­tain con­tact.

Close fam­ily re­la­tion­ships be­tween grand­par­ents and grand­chil­dren are in­creas­ingly com­mon as the cost of child­care pushes par­ents to rely on in­for­mal care from fam­ily mem­bers.

Bet­ter health and longer lives also means an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple are liv­ing long enough to see their grand­chil­dren grow up.

Maeve Thomp­son, of char­ity Grand­par­ents Plus, said grand­par­ents were “dev­as­tated” if they were no longer able to see their grand­chil­dren due to di­vorce.

“Grand­par­ents are play­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant roles in chil­dren’s lives, and re­search has shown that they’re hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact – par­tic­u­larly on ado­les­cents and when fam­i­lies are go­ing through dif­fi­cult times,” she said.

Katie Dil­lon, head of law firm Hall Brown’s spe­cial­ist chil­dren’s di­vi­sion, added that the ac­tual num­ber of dis­putes driven by grand­par­ents was likely to be even higher be­cause many par­ents were pushed to ap­ply on a grand­par­ent’s be­half.

“I be­lieve that this is­sue rep­re­sents some­thing of an ice­berg in that whilst ap­pli­ca­tions made di­rectly by grand­par­ents for con­tact have risen con­sid- er­ably in the last three years, their in­volve­ment in cases led by their own chil­dren is far more sub­stan­tial,” she said.

“That’s be­cause it’s eas­ier for a mother or fa­ther to seek a child ar­range­ments or­der than a grand­par­ent.

“Grand­par­ents are keen to have con­tact with grand­chil­dren for­malised rather than re­main on a ca­sual ba­sis, which might ul­ti­mately be ig­nored.”

Mrs Dil­lon said that one of her own cases ini­ti­ated by grand­par­ents in­volved a woman try­ing to main­tain con­tact with her grand­child against the wishes of her own son and his wife.

An­other fea­tured a cou­ple whose son-in-law had re­lo­cated 200 miles away with his child after their daugh­ter died.

Mrs Dil­lon added that grand­par­ents’ in­volve­ment in par­ents’ ap­pli­ca­tions of­ten be­came ob­vi­ous from the ev­i­dence.

Dur­ing one set of pro­ceed­ings, cor­re­spon­dence emerged from a grand­fa­ther who said he would “spend what­ever it takes” to main­tain con­tact.

But Ms Thomp­son said lit­i­ga­tion should be avoided if pos­si­ble.

Russell Crowe as Max­imus in Gla­di­a­tor, the breast­plate sold for A$125,000, above, Crowe in Master and Com­man­der, left, the vi­o­lin that fea­tured, right

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