Last night the BBC South West news programme, Spotlight, featured the sad story of Derek Vaughan, 81, from Lynton who fought for many years for access to his grand daughter, Serena. Tragically Serena died at the age of 25 in January 2012.
Following a family break up Serena lived with her grandparents for most of the first five years of her life but then had to leave. Derek and his wife then spent many years battling to gain access to Serena whilst visits became fewer and fewer. Derek says of Serena, “She was frustrated beyond belief.”
Derek believes she took her own life and says, “the system let her down”.
Grandparents do not have an automatic right to contact with their grandchildren and when relationships break down losing contact with grandchildren causes great heartache for grandparents and their grandchildren. This is a particularly complex and emotive area of law.
Stephen Sowden, Director at Hartnell Chanot & Partners and comments: “Wherever possible we always encourage grandparents to try and talk things through with the grandchild’s mother or father first. If this fails mediation is an effective way in which to resolve contact issues and keep legal costs to a minimum.
If the situation cannot be dealt with amicably then court should be the last resort. The courts now recognise the huge role that grandparents have and the contribution they make. It is unlikely that court would refuse a grandparent access to grandchildren but there are no guarantees and the process can be costly.”
He added: “Over the past few years the profile of grandparents has been raised tremendously with many national organisations, such as The Grandparents Association, highlighting the asset that grandparents are to the family. There is still a long way to go, however and we will continue to lobby the Government for more rights for grandparents.”
For more information on your rights as a grandparent and what to do if you are being denied access please visit the Grandparents area of our website.