In a divorce situation, it can be hard to come up with an outcome that pleases anybody. It can be impossible to come up with a solution that pleases everybody. Even when everyone agrees in principle, they may have very different ideas about how to turn this into practice. With so many competing opinions and interests, grandparents may find themselves being shoved to one side.
Grandparent’s Rights During Divorce
Grandparents have no automatic rights in a divorce
Whether or not this is fair depends on how you view it. On the one hand, you could say that any close relatives (by blood or adoption) should have rights over the child. This would give them guaranteed access in the event of a divorce. On the other hand, you could say that the only rights which need to be considered are the rights of the child.
Respecting the rights of a child would generally come under the heading of parental responsibility. If, however, grandparents felt that parents were not acting in a child’s best interests, they might consider taking legal action. At present, grandparents would have to apply for leave (permission) to apply for a Contact Order.
If their application is granted, they will then be able to make their case before a family court. The court’s main consideration will be the welfare of the child (not the grandparent). Realistically, however, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for the courts to separate the welfare of the child from the welfare of the parents, especially the custodial parent.
In other words, if a custodial parent is strongly opposed to the child seeing you then you may struggle to convince the court to grant a Contact Order. What’s more, even if the court does grant the Contact Order, you may find it practically impossible to enforce in reality. A custodial parent may not be able to take children abroad without the other parent’s permission but there’s nothing to stop them from moving within the child’s jurisdiction.
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be a better option
In theory, there are three main forms of ADR. These are arbitration, mediation, and solicitor negotiation (collaborative law). Arbitration is similar to court proceedings in that both parties agree to be bound by the decision of an independent arbiter. Realistically, this is not going to happen in this kind of situation.
Mediation and solicitor negotiation are both essentially the same idea albeit approached in different ways. In short, with mediation, the parties talk to each other and the mediator facilitates their discussion. With solicitor negotiation, the solicitors act as a bridge between their clients.
One approach can merge into the other. In fact, they could both be used at the same time. Ideally, however, mediation should generally be used as much as possible. At the end of the day, it makes sense for grandparents and parents to be able to talk to one another. Mediation can help lay down a framework in which that can happen.
Sales techniques may help too
Quite bluntly, you are a lot more likely to get meaningful cooperation from someone if you can show that it is in their best interests to cooperate with you. This means that it can be very helpful to be able to provide specific examples of how maintaining contact with you would help the child and, ideally, the parent as well.
For example, do you have the flexibility to provide childcare when they could really use it or at least when it would fit in with their other plans? Would you be able to help with other practicalities such as getting children to or from their activities? In general, the more flexible you can be and the more you can show a willingness to work with the custodial parent, the more likely you are to be able to reach a civil agreement.