7 Grandparents A Day Seeking Court Orders For Contact With Grandchildren
The Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, has confirmed in a written parliamentary answer that there were 2,217 applications to courts in 2013 – 2014 by grandparents seeking an order to see a grandchild after the separation or divorce of the parents. This works out to seven applications every day, and compares with for 2,649 in 2012 – 2013, and 2,319 in 2011 – 2012.
The organisation National Family Mediation has replied by saying that the Government must take the blame for these figures, since it has not made enough information available concerning the alternative methods of solving these family disputes.
CEO of National Family Mediation, Jane Robey, said that grandparents have no automatic rights concerning grandchildren, but that seeking a court order should be a last resort. She was concerned that a large majority of those seeking court orders were simply unaware of the alternative options. The family court system is a very large burden on the taxpayer, and the Government must take responsibility for failing to provide information about the alternatives, including family mediation, in order to settle disputes.
The Government wants to ensure that family disputes are kept out of court wherever possible. “It can certainly talk the talk”, said Robey, “but it must do more to walk the walk”.
The experience of National Family Mediation was that, under changes to legal aid made two years ago, many grandparents who would have qualified for it no longer do so. However, legal aid is still available for mediation, which the organisation says is a further advantage in going down this road, but one that is not publicised by Government.
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