Improvements to help grandparents and grandchildren maintain their relationship in difficult circumstances

The Scottish Government recently reviewed the Children (Scotland) Act and though it sadly declined to change the legal status of the relationship between the generations, despite there being an existing hereditary legal connection, there have been some improvements which will help families when problems arise.

The Family Justice Modernisation Strategy shows non-legal changes which will help families in different difficult circumstances.

A grandparent used to be easily excluded because they were deemed to be an ‘irrelevant person’. The definition of a ‘relevant person’ now includes anyone who has had significant involvement in a child or young person’s upbringing, which could include a grandparent.

The updated Act requires the court to consider the effect any order might have on a child’s relationships with other people. This could include the child’s relationship with their grandparents.

If a grandparent, you can keep a diary and note details to show you are or have been significant in your grandchild’s life to help reject any such negative order.

Minister Ash Denham has committed the government to actively promoting the ‘Charter for Grandchildren’ and highlighting ‘Your Parenting Plan’, which promotes the importance of grandparents and the wider family in a child’s life.

Court systems will also be improved and modernised to make hearings more family friendly, and in future, courts will have to inform the child of their decision.

A child of any age can also now give an opinion and the professionals involved will be adequately trained in how best to ascertain that opinion in a manner suitable to the age of the child.

All professionals will now have updated training, including ‘trauma training’, to improve the way they deal with families and better support children in difficult situations.

However, trauma training seems to lean towards the assumption that the abused parent is female and there remains a significant danger that male victims are not believed or adequately supported.

During consultations, Women’s Aid had a huge influence on changes without the equality of input from organisations which support abused men.

The government has now committed to finding ‘alternatives to court’ by promoting other forms of dispute resolution, e.g. mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, family group conferencing and family group therapy.

We can only hope that these changes impact positively on families and children in particular.

Grandparents Apart UK is a charity dedicated to helping grandparents keep in touch with their grandchildren when families experience issues. To find out more, visit grandparentsapart.co.uk or call the helpline if needed: 0141 882 5658 or 01560 322 937.

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