2,517 court applications were made in 2014 by grandparents for Child Arrangement Orders or Contact Orders (enabling a child to spend time with a named person).
Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, said: “The fact is that grandparents have no automatic right to be part of their grandchild’s life.
“A divorce or separation can shatter grandparents’ lives as much as the couple involved, because it can mean contact with the grandchildren they love is suddenly blocked.
“Making an approach to court should be used only as a last resort by anxious grandparents. Our worry is that the huge majority of the 2,517 grandparents applying for court orders in 2014 knew nothing about the alternative options available to them. The family court system is a huge expense to the taxpayer, and Government must bear its share of the blame for the lack of information and education about alternative ways to resolve family disputes, including family mediation.
“The Government says it wants to keep family disputes out or court wherever possible. It can certainly talk the talk, but it needs to do more to walk the walk.
“Family mediation is often the best way for grandparents to resume the contact they so badly want with family members.
“Our experience is that, since changes to legal aid two years ago, many grandparents who would previously have qualified for legal aid to take the case to court, are no longer able to get this financial support to fight their case. Yet legal aid does remain available for mediation – a further advantage in pursuing disputes this way that is also ‘undersold’ by the Government.”
Free information leaflet
As the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales, NFM has made available a free leaflet aimed specifically at grandparents in this situation. Copies can be obtained by calling 0300 4000 636 or downloaded free online at www.nfm.org.uk/grandparents.
“Grandparents who feel unable to contact the adults who care for their grandchild can approach a mediation service for help,” Jane Robey added. “Experienced mediators can discuss with them the best way of inviting their relatives to participate in a mediation process which is usually quicker, cheaper and far less stressful than going to court.
“Professionally trained mediators will help you negotiate with your family and help you to reach a settlement for future relationships with your grandchild.”
The data was issued by Justice Minister Simon Hughes in a Written Parliamentary Answer. The full information can be seen here.