Research by Saga magazine showing that grandparents provide an average of 17 hours free childcare each month worth an annual £7.3 billion demonstrates the integral role played by grandparents in many modern families.

Yet unfortunately when the parents' relationship breaks down, all too often grandparents can find themselves caught in the crossfire to the detriment of the close relationship they have fostered with cherished grandchildren.

Often, the continuing roles of the grandparents will be determined by whether they are the parents of the separating mother or father.

For the maternal grandparents, it can sometimes be that the separation will see them play an enhanced role in their grandchildren's lives as their daughter turns to them for support.

But paternal grandparents can sometimes find themselves marginalised, particularly if the grandmother's relationship with her daughter-in-law suffers under the strain of the separation.

From playing an active role in the grandchildren's lives in their own right, they may suddenly find their time is restricted to visits which coincide with the father's own time with the children.

Grandparents will often be disappointed to hear they have no automatic right of contact or access.

However in some situations it can be possible for grandparents to assert the importance of maintaining their important relationship even in the face of opposition from one or other parent. Usually that is best achieved by delicate negotiation, but if necessary a court can order contact between a grandparent and grandchild if it is shown to be in the best interests of the child concerned.



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