Granny knows best

Jane Cowley, Family Law PartnerGrandparents play an invaluable role in society and in family life, contributing their life experience, wisdom and love. Most families would also agree that their contribution to child care can often be invaluable. Indeed a recent survey of 1,000 grandparents has found that on average grandparents care for two children for around thirteen hours a week, and with the equivalent child minding costs standing at almost £2,400 per child annually, this amounts to a saving of 33.6 billion pounds per year. Grandparents therefore play a vital role contributing to the economy.

Sadly, and all too often, during family breakdown, positions can become polarised, leading to estrangement between grandchildren and their grandparents. At present many grandparents lose contact with their grandchildren, or are forced to apply for the Court's permission to allow them to make an application to the Court for their contact with their grandchildren to be reviewed. Unlike parents, grandparents have no automatic right to make such an application, and where a Judge feels an application is without merit, in the absence of an investigation in relation to the facts surrounding the family breakdown, grandparents often find themselves without a voice.

A recent review has suggested that the importance of grandparents should be incorporated in Parenting Agreements together with the introduction of a simplified and codified system to end the present confusion in terms of procedure, and often the need for various different agencies to become involved. It is proposed that a new family justice system led by a National Family Justice Board, be created, with specialist Family Judges hearing each case from start to finish.

Family justice is under great strain. Many family cases take far too long to be resolved. Sadly children can sometimes wait for in excess of a year for their futures to be settled. This can mean a damaging estrangement for ageing grandparents, and the death knell to a strong relationship between grandchild and grandparent. It is time to recognise the valuable contribution grandparents make to family lives, and society as a whole.

To find out more about any family legal matter, call Jane Cowley on 0116 247 3500/01604 230400 or

Image: Jane Cowley, Family Law Partner and Head of the East Midlands Private Client Group at Howes Percival LLP