Grandparents at Christmas

All many Grandparents want for Christmas is to see their grandchildren enjoying the festive season. Some already know that this year they will be…

John Lewis' Christmas 2015 advertisement encapsulates the warmth and excitement of a family home at Christmas and the joy it can bring to feel even a little included in that world. All many grandparents want for Christmas is to see their grandchildren enjoying the festive season. Some already know that this year they will be disappointed. Some will be supporting their own child through a divorce or separation and be wondering if they will ever get to see their grandchildren at Christmas again. What, if anything can they do?

'Christmas is an especially tough time for the parents' of separating couples,' says Weightmans' family lawyer Lottie Tyler. 'Grandparents can feel sad and frustrated both for themselves and for their own children, if they are unable to share in the magic with their grandchildren.'

'Ideally parents will make arrangements that enable the whole family to share in Christmas. If parents really cannot agree, the court will give careful consideration to what the best arrangement is for the children. In many situations it will recognise the importance of the children spending Christmas with both sides of their family, either sharing the day itself or putting in place an alternate year pattern. Grandparents can support a parent in seeking advice if they are unhappy with the current arrangements.

Grandparents themselves do not have the same rights as parents but they can apply to the court asking for the court's permission to bring an application to see their grandchildren.

'The court recognises the important contribution grandparents have to make in terms of helping to provide a stable environment for their grandchildren's upbringing but also in in giving them a sense of their identity,' says Ms Tyler. 'Grandparents should be pro-active in seeking advice from a family law expert but should equally bear in mind the need to tread sensitively in what will already be a tense situation'.

'Family mediation may be a good option for some. Court should be a last resort if all other forums for discussion are exhausted. Not fixating on the actual day itself is important too, it may be too late to unravel plans for this Christmas but what about Boxing day?  Or even gently starting a discussion about next year'.

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