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4 March 2015

Seven grandparents a day seek court order to see grandchildren

The Government should shoulder the blame, says National Family Mediation, reported by Family Law Week.

Simon Hughes, the Justice Minister, has confirmed in a written parliamentary answer that last year there were seven applications a day by grandparents for a court order to see a grandchild after the divorce or separation of the child's parents.

In 2013/24 there were 2,517 applications for child contact orders or child arrangements orders. The figures for 2012/13 and 2011/12 were 2,649 and 2,319 respectively.

National Family Mediation has responded by saying that the government must shoulder blame for the lack of information and education about alternative approaches to settling family disputes.

 Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said:
'The fact is that grandparents have no automatic right to be part of their grandchild's life. 
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. 
Our experience is 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 this financial support to fight their case. Yet legal aid does remain available for mediation – a further advantage in pursuing disputes this way that is also 'undersold' by the Government.'