One of the enduring questions about caring for children after their parents divorce was debated in Parliament again at the start of this month, as Conservative MP Nigel Huddleston raised the issue of access rights for grandparents once again.
It is around a year since the topic was last raised; unfortunately at that time, the 2017 UK General Election was imminent, and purdah rules meant no formal progress could be made.
“Divorce and family breakdown can take an emotional toll on all involved, but the family dynamic that is all too often overlooked is that between grandparents and their grandchildren,” Mr Huddleston told the House of Commons on May 2nd 2018.
“When access to grandchildren is blocked, some grandparents call it a kind of living bereavement. Unlike some other countries, grandparents in the UK have no automatic rights to see their grandchildren, and vice versa.”
He agreed with a point raised by fellow Conservative MP Edward Argar that access to grandparents can even prove to be a stabilising factor for young people during the process of divorce itself.
Mediation is of course another way to add a sense of stability to divorce proceedings, but can also be a remedy for grandparents who want to gain access to grandchildren after divorce.
“What can grandparents who have been cut off from their grandchildren do? If appealing directly to the parents’ good will does not work, the first step is to go through mediation,” Mr Huddleston said in the Commons.
Labour MP Gloria De Piero added that family disputes can be complex and sometimes court action is unavoidable, but that “arbitration and mediation are, of course, more amicable, preferable and cheaper routes, and they have been found to work in many cases”.
Across the contributions from different, opposing political parties, there was a broad consensus that grandparents deserve to be considered and involved where possible, especially when it is likely to result in a better standard of care for their grandchildren following their parents’ divorce.
Marcia Mediation believe in involving all directly affected family members – using child inclusive mediation to ask young people to express their own wishes about what should happen after their parents separate – in order to create an amicable, mutually agreeable outcome wherever possible.
Ultimately this allows everyone to have a voice and to feel that their views have been respected as far as is reasonably possible, ensuring that every member of the family is able to maintain a sense of dignity in divorce.