Q, Are you trying to say that it is preferable for English and Welsh grandparents to have the additional hurdle of applying to the court for initial permission to seek contact with the grandchild?
A, I think that is a racist remark you obviously have not done your homework on what we do. We have lots of English and Welsh members. In fact we have a group in Wales called Grandparents Apart Wales and we have provided information for some groups in England to set up.
Q, And are you meaning that it is a step in the wrong direction for the proposed removal of the hurdle, which consequently puts English and Welsh grandparents on a similar application to the Scottish grandparents?
A, What I am pointing out is that removing the need to ask a courts permission to go to court is not progress because it is already like that in Scotland and is of no particular benefit to grandparents. In fact removing the need to ask a courts permission is like removing a safety net and devastated grandparents will grab at any straw and be easily led by inaccurate advice. The amount of times I have heard that lawyers have given the wrong advice about whether there is a chance to win their case is highlighted in our questionnaire about professionals
Q, You also seem to be saying that it upsets the resident parent (in some cases) to allow the child to have time with the grandparents and because of that every non-resident grandparent should have an obstacle. Your grounds for saying this is that it would/could upset the resident parent.
A, Children are the responsibility of their parents and grandparents should be a close second. When it was proposed that grandparents should have legal rights in Scotland we experienced a backlash from parents aggressively objecting to the thought that grandparents could be in a position to interfere in the upbringing of their child. Grandparents having rights to be in a position to dictate to parents will in our experience cause further conflict in families.
We are in the business of ‘Bringing Families Together’ and we are trying hard to reach a compromise that will be acceptable to all. The majority of grandparents only want to have contact with their grandchildren. They have brought up a family of their own and only want the enjoyment the second time around. I hear this often from grandparents “ I love to see my grandchildren but I also love to see them going home with their mum and dad as a happy family”.
Grandparents already have an unfair obstacle which is the product of the governments and social service and practised every day by social services and courts. By being regarded as irrelevant persons in their grandchildren’s lives by authority sends a message to the general public that it is ok to alienate grandparents and does not encourage families to work together for compromise. The only obstacle that should be is, ‘The Best Interests of the Child’, and cutting grandparents out of their lives in most cases is not in their best interests.
I remind you that its in the best interest of the child to have contact with the non-resident family. Cases such as Baby P provide for better outcomes if the non-resident families are involved in family life.
A, I agree with you entirely, but legislation will not right this wrong. The government needs to get the message across that grandparents are relevant a in family life. The government says they want the best for children, do they think every grandparent does not want the same.
Jimmy wrote:- Wouldn't you agree the leave to apply is preferential as a sort of safeguard for grandparents who are vulnerable and desperately cling to any hope.
David writes:- The 'sort of safeguard' is an additional and expensive hurdle which prevents the non-residential family from having contact with the child. The child's family (i.e. residential & non-residential) should be assisted and encouraged by the system to have contact with the child in the absence of a good reason to deny contact. The 'sort of safeguard' which jimmy wants is a parental (family) alienator.
I take it that was your summing up, grand finale.
A, The 'sort of safeguard' if it is force would be a little expense compared to what it would cost for grandparents to have their case taken on with little chance of success. It would indeed be an alienator. Better it was nipped in the bud rather than put children, grandparents and parents through needless expense and trauma if the grandparents were not fit to have contact in the first place, saving the grandparents their life's savings and the time of the courts.
We do encourage and assist grandparents to gain contact with their grandchildren why do you think we are here? ‘Bringing Families Together’ is our Motto. We have helped grandparents back in their grandchildren’s lives with mediation rather than parents being forced to accept grandparents. This has more credibility than the courts and doesn’t end up with non-compliance which only makes fat cat lawyers fatter.
We prefer mediation and bridge building like the case I just sent you avoiding courts and lawyers whenever possible. The only winners in legal cases is again fat cat lawyers who charge extortionate fees.
Deviating a second. Today on Working lunch, a lawyer charged a dogs charity £17,000
For dealing with an inheritance. On appeal, a judge reduced it to £5000.
The “sort of safeguard’ you are promoting seems to depend on money. The little expense (and added hurdle of the extra process) may be little to you but a sizeable amount to other grandparents. This ‘sort of safeguard’ discriminates against grandparents with little money. Grandparents with little money should not be a reason to deny the child contact with the non-residential family.
Jimmy, in mediation does this ‘sort of safeguard’ exists?
A, It is our intention to avoid the need for lawyers, courts and safeguards and to promote mediation in order not to widen the gap in families further by legal means. I was on Radio Scotland yesterday and the lawyer from Edinburgh admitted that court actions split families further.
Our intention in the first place was not to promote this safeguard but to expose the Tories proposal to remove the need to apply to a court as an election gimmick. . This announcement was cruel to heartbroken grandparents giving them false hope. It caused quite a few grandparents to phone me up and say it was great but what use is it to grandparents if it is the norm in Scotland and in our experience is of no significant help.
We do not recommend lawyers to anyone we only say make sure you go to a family lawyer. We would love to have more faith in lawyers, but.
Q, Jimmy, in mediation does this ‘sort of safeguard’ exists?
A, In my view this kind of safeguard is protecting grandparents (from themselves even in their desperation and confusion) from unnecessary expense of engaging lawyers when there is no chance of winning. The mediations I have conducted have not cost a penny in fees as we are volunteers. The safeguard is in the system that we use.