UK gov’t reviews grandparents’ role


Grandparents should be included in
agreements on the future of their grandchildren following a divorce; under
proposals for family law reform unveiled in a UK government review, but would
not have rights of contact set down in law.

The importance of grandparents
would be incorporated in Parenting Agreements – reached without going to court
if possible, with separating parents able to access online and phone help –
which would focus on where the child spends time rather than defining contact
and residence. The importance of relationships with parents, grandparents and
other relatives, and friends valued by the child, would be included.

However, David Norgrove, chair of
the Family Justice Review Panel, who led the review, said talk of grandparents’
“legal rights” was approaching the situation from the wrong perspective.

“We don’t come at this from the
rights of adults,” he said. “We are approaching this from the best interests of
the children.”

The interim report recommends a
simplified and speeded-up system, to end the present confusion of different
agencies and courts. A new family justice service led by a national family
justice board is proposed, with a unified courts system, and specialist judges
hearing each case from start to finish.

Mr. Norwood said a year of
interviewing children, parents and people working in the sector had convinced
him that the present system is not working, and is complex, very slow, and very

“Children are the most important
people in the family justice system,” he said. “Family justice is under huge
strain. Cases take far too long and delays are likely to rise. Children can
wait well over a year for their futures to be settled. This is shocking.”

The panel also wants to see the
system speeded up where a child is in danger and must be taken into care, with
a timetable for resolving the situation set for each child, and less reliance
on unnecessary expert reports, which, it concludes, also cause delay.

There will now be a period of public
consultation on the recommendations before the panel presents its final report
in December.