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Family Law

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Court of Protection Practice and Procedure Conference 2016

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04 APR 2011

Penny Booth: Never mind the quality, feel the distance?

Penny BoothThe ‘right' for grandchildren to have the opportunity to see their grandparents may be a new provision available through a court near you, soon. Let's leave the word ‘right' for now but it isn't before time because grandparents have a huge amount to offer children and it is a pity that they have to fight so hard to maintain the contact from which children benefit so much - usually. Of course, there are exceptions, but these must be outweighed by the times when relationships blossom and add so much to the welfare of children. To be cut off from that contact because of the death of one parent or vitriolic separation and divorce of offspring risks visiting further pain when the maintenance of contact could add so much to the benefit for all concerned.                                                                                

The reports last week were full of hope (again, with a few exceptions) that changes in provisions would give grandparents rights - hang on a minute... surely not ‘rights'? Let's make sure that the ‘right' is for the child, put it firmly in the realms of the child's welfare, or we are back to square one talking about the rights of adults. It seems to me that human rights are great when they are ours. Not so great when the impact may make visiting onerous for a parent or a means of control by one side of a divided family against another. It is good news, though, and, so long as part of an appropriate development of putting welfare at the forefront then it should help create an atmosphere of continuing contact - here's hoping that it includes changing recalcitrant attitudes in the aftermath of relationship breakdown in particular.

The ‘hug-a-Skype' suggestion last week was an intriguing one. The relocation cases cause considerable difficulty and are virtually (no pun intended) insurmountable. One parent wishes to move (in this case, they could go no further and still be on the planet) and the other does not. The relationship between the parents should only be relevant where it affects the children. The parents are already far apart, but father and children are not, and the children may well benefit from a continuing real relationship with the father. The technology is simple enough (even I can use it) but I, quite frankly, don't think that is the point. Promising the earth, long visits to father with the children travelling from what the mother calls a ‘better lifestyle' and moving from England where the mother feels ‘isolated, trapped and depressed'. It occurs to me that perhaps Dad will have every reason to feel the same in the future.

Maybe we should be running ‘learn-how-to-Skype' sessions for grandparents, too? Not quite the same, though, is it?

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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