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Seven grandparents a day seek court order to see grandchildren

Government must shoulder blame for the lack of information about alternative approaches to settling family disputes

23 February 2015

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Everyday throughout 2014, seven grandparents made court order applications to see a grandchild after the divorce or separation of the child's parents.

Some 2,517 court applications were made in 2014 by grandparents for Child Arrangement Orders or Contact Orders (enabling a child to spend time with a named person) information issued by justice minister, Simon Hughes, has revealed.

Leading family charity, National Family Mediation (NFM), says the government must shoulder the blame for the lack of information and education about alternative approaches to settling family disputes.

Jane Robey, CEO of NFM, said the fact of the matter was that grandparents have no automatic right to be part of their grandchild's life.

"A divorce or separation can shatter grandparents' lives as much as the couple involved, because it can mean contact with the grandchildren they love is suddenly blocked," she said.

"Making an approach to court should be used only as a last resort by anxious grandparents. Our worry is that the huge majority of the 2,517 grandparents applying for court orders in 2014 knew nothing about the alternative options available to them. The family court system is a huge expense to the taxpayer, and government must bear its share of the blame for the lack of information and education about alternative ways to resolve family disputes, including family mediation.

"The government says it wants to keep family disputes out or court wherever possible. It can certainly talk the talk, but it needs to do more to walk the walk.

Robey said that, since changes to legal aid two years ago, many grandparents who would previously have qualified for legal aid to take the case to court are no longer able to get financial support to fight their case.

"Yet legal aid does remain available for mediation," Robey added, "a further advantage in pursuing disputes this way that is also 'undersold' by the Government."

Laura Clenshaw is managing editor of Solicitors Journal

editorial@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @L_Clenshaw

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Children