While grandparents are legally entitled to make their own application for access to, or custody of, grandchildren during divorce proceedings, they have traditionally not tended to do this for fear of damaging their own child’s chances of contact.
This often leaves the older generation feeling marginalised as they wait for parents to allocate some time for them to spend with grandchildren.
Our advice at Jones Myers is that while they should not take sides in the divorce, grandparents play an instrumental role in children’s lives and should try to stay involved with them. They should emphasise the useful roles they can play – such as handovers and childcare – so that both parents will welcome them as safe, as opposed to critical, custodians.
When parents divorce, children may find themselves living in an environment that can sometimes be strained and the home of the grandparents becomes a safe haven, somewhere that offers consistency and a place where they can open up about their feelings.
Because being a grandparent after a divorce will initially be a little more complicated, it’s important to take the time to think about visits and planning days to help distract grandchildren from their parents’ problems.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are some tips that might help:
- Stay connected with your child and their former partner. It is understandable that you may feel disappointed and let down, but distancing yourself from them will cause problems further down the line.
- Grandparents can be key in helping their grandchildren through a divorce. Try to focus on your relationship with the children rather than the disintegrating relationship of their parents. Young people often need reassurance that the divorce is not their fault, so the empathy and warmth from their grandparents will be critical.
- If the parents can’t agree about who will have the children over Christmas, you could offer to look after them in a more neutral family environment. However, if emotions are running high, separate celebrations may be better initially. Always think about the children’s best interests.
- Consider the other grandparents and be diplomatic with them. You may disagree with how their child has behaved, but in the interests of maintaining stability for the grandchildren going forward, try to maintain a relationship with them.
- Make time and space for your grandchildren if they want to talk about the difficulties they’re experiencing, but above all avoid criticism of their parents.
Our Children Department specialises in residence and contact disputes, care proceedings, international child abduction, adoption, special guardianship, relocation and public law cases, attracting complex and varied casework in the UK and overseas.
If you have any comments, queries or concerns on children, grandchildren, divorce or family law related issues, leave a comment below, call the team at Jones Myers on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce