More grandparents fighting for contact with grandchildren as court cases surge
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