The Mature Times asked me to write about divorce and grandparents’ rights. My article also offers advice to grandparents who are caught up in such a situation and are concerned that they may lose contact with their grandchildren.
On family breakdown the bulk of attention will, of course, focus upon the couple and their children. However grandparents are also an important part of family life.
When I was growing up, my grandparents were my closest confidantes. My grandmother would buy me books and records; later, when I was living in France, letters filled with wise counsel would arrive almost daily.
As a maturing teenager, I could discuss with my grandparents all sorts of things that I didn’t feel I could tell my parents. I adored my grandparents and benefited from their unconditional love. They were there when needed and could be trusted to keep my secrets. My grandfather had a sweet stall at Leeds Market. As a teenager I worked alongside him; thanks to him, I learned how to deal with people. He was unfailingly friendly to everyone; several years after he died, a Leeds judge who attended his synagogue wrote to tell me how much he had liked and admired him. My grandfather made his boiled sweets in a little factory. Life in that factory and on that market stall was very tough, and the cold weather undoubtedly shortened my grandmother’s life. She suffered from pleurisy and died aged 61, when I was very young.
My other grandmother was my best friend. She came from a different background: when she was young she used to “take the waters” at Harrogate with her grandmother. Well-educated, she was one of the first women journalists in Leeds. During the war she worked in a munitions factory and lost a finger in an accident, but she never mentioned it or complained. My grandmother was a remarkable woman whose life story would make a quite a novel! I used to meet her for lunch once a week in Leeds; she always wore a silk scarf with great elegance.
It is difficult to imagine my childhood and my early adulthood without my beloved grandparents at my side. On my dressing table I keep a treasured photograph of them, taken when I graduated from Leeds University.
It is a sad fact that in some cases, relationships with grandchildren can be fractured or faded by divorce. In a worst case scenario, grandparents may seek contact orders through the courts; it is preferable, however, to resolve issues amicably.
My advice for grandparents includes the following:
- Try to discuss matters with the child’s parents at an early stage. Do not take sides or play the blame game. Make it clear that all you want is a reasonable, ongoing role in your grandchild’s life.
- When it comes to contact time, be realistic. Don’t forget that the children will now have three households to move between - not just yours and theirs.
- Don’t use a court application as a way of getting back at your son or daughter-in-law. Don’t use your application as a way to reduce their time with their children and don’t use it as a weapon. The court will be highly critical of any person who appears to be abusing the process or using the law as a means to hurt the other parties.
Visit the Mature Times website to read the rest of my advice in full.
Nicknamed "The Barracuda" for her tenacity, Marilyn Stowe is one of the UK’s most sought after divorce lawyers, and is the senior partner at Stowe Family Law.