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Review rejects improved contact rights for grandparents

The Family Justice Review has rejected calls to make it easier for grandparents to seek contact with their grandchildren.

As the law stands at the moment, grandparents have to get permission from a court before they can even start to make an application for contact. It was thought the Review might recommend removing this requirement.

However, it has decided against changing the current system. The Chair of the Review, Sir David Norgrove, said in his interim report: "We have heard representations that the requirement for grandparents to seek leave of the court before making an application for contact should be removed but have concluded this should remain.

"But the importance of these and other relationships must be emphasised throughout the process of reaching parenting agreements."

The report goes on to stress the need for parenting agreements which put the child’s needs first in terms of care, education, health, finance and contact. The Review also calls for greater use of mediation to enable parents to reach amicable agreements.

The decision not to improve legal rights for grandparents will no doubt disappoint many people but there are still several steps that can be taken in order to have to have contact with a grandchild.

The first thing should be to approach the parent who’s being obstructive and try to reach an agreement. This can be difficult if they are feeling bitter after the break-up of a relationship but in time, most people will realise the value of their child having contact with the grandparents.

If that doesn’t work then mediation with the guidance of an independent mediator might help. However, both sides have to agree so it may not always be suitable.

Legal action may then become necessary, although there’s a good chance the problem could still be resolved before you get to court. Once the application is made, family advisory officers from the court agency CAFCASS may be appointed to examine welfare issues and prepare a report.

These reports are often strong enough to persuade the obstructive parent that contact would be good for their child. If not, the matter is likely to be decided by the court.

If the court decides in favour of contact with the grandparents then the parents will have to comply.

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