What does Coronavirus/COVID-19 mean for grandparents? BLM's family law team answers

What does Coronavirus/COVID-19 mean for grandparents?

BLM's family law team answers

The Coronavirus pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on society, as the British government put in place strict rules on when individuals can leave their homes.

The impact of the government’s measures has been far-reaching, and has had an indisputable impact on family dynamics; parents who are separated are having to make difficult decisions about transporting the children between homes and whether there is a risk in transporting the child.

The government issued guidance notes for separated parents, but what about grandparents? Unfortunately, the landscape for grandparents in the current climate is on the bleaker end of the scale.

Under normal circumstances, grandparents often play a vital role in bringing children up - educating them about their lives, or through providing informal childcare services, grandparents are often an essential part of the child-raising process.

What changes has Coronavirus /COVID-19 brought about?

With Coronavirus tightening its grip on the nation, the movement of children is restricted. Unless the child is a child of a key-worker, that child is expected to remain at home.

The government has stipulated that gatherings of more than two people should not take place unless they are members of the same household. This is not the same as members of the same family, meaning that those outside of the family home are, in effect, banned from entering.

Grandparents not residing with the child will therefore be very limited in the level of face to face contact they can have with the child during the crisis.

Self-isolation and grandparents during Coronavirus /COVID-19

The government has stated that those who are vulnerable should self-isolate for 12 weeks (from 23 March). Those aged 75 or older are advised to self-isolate for this period, meaning that they should not leave the home unless for medical reasons or to shop for groceries.

This will inevitably be a difficult time for grandparents who are unfortunately going to have to go months without seeing the grandchildren face to face. It is important to remember that this self-isolation will end and things will go back to normal.

How can families stay in touch during the Coronavirus /COVID-19?

In the meantime, families can facilitate contact between children and their grandparents in a number of ways. Regular phone calls or video calls on FaceTime/Whatsapp/Zoom can be a great way of keeping in touch. Or perhaps the children could write a letter as part of their home-schooling programmes given that schools will be closed for the foreseeable future?

What rights do grandparents have to see their grandchildren?

Grandparents do not automatically have the right to bring an application to see their grandchildren; permission must be sought from the court. The court has issued guidance on how it will consider applications made by parents following the lockdown period, and the court will look at whether the parent acted reasonably. If a parent has genuine concerns about their child seeing a grandparent for health reasons in light of the health climate, then the court is very unlikely to make an order in a grandparent’s favour.

In these difficult times, we must all do the best that we can; ensuring that grandparents have regular contact with their grandchildren (and wider family unit) is essential.

What to do if you're a grandparent and want contact with your grandchild?

If you are in a position where contact with your grandchildren was an issue prior to this pandemic, you may wish to contact us for advice on how to move matters forward for you, whilst in lockdown. Whilst, this will not result in direct contact at this stage, it could mean that indirect contact could be established or re-established and possibly direct contact will follow after this crisis abates.

 

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

 

Who to contact

Michael
Compston

Solicitor , Manchester

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