Did National Grandparents’ Day* pass you by last Sunday?  Perhaps the greetings card companies haven’t yet cottoned on.  Or perhaps they did and realised it wasn’t such a money spinner; perhaps it is a sign of something more, a sign that grandparents are simply not as publicly appreciated as mothers/fathers.

If we believe the stereotype, then grandparents provide their families with a good dose of sound advice, regular presents, baked goods and a steady supply of Werther’s Originals.  However, as more parents go out to work, grandparents are increasingly being relied upon for something more - free childcare.

These days more and more grandparents are playing an active and important role in caring for their grandchildren.  Yet, if the parents split up many grandparents fear losing touch with the children they have helped to raise.

English law acknowledges that it is beneficial for a child to know their wider family, in particular their grandparents.  However, where parents are being obstructive, a grandparent must first ask the Court for permission before they can make an application for contact (or residence).  Furthermore, if leave is granted, there is no presumption that contact should be ordered by the Court.  The Court still needs to satisfy itself that contact with a grandparent is in the child’s best interests.

The perceived fairness of this extra legal hurdle varies along with the circumstances of each family breakdown.  However, as the baby boomers become grandparents, I hope that we will not take for granted the invaluable contribution that grandparents make to society and, indirectly, the economy.  Maybe in the years to come, National Grandparents’ Day won’t go under the radar.  Although perhaps we shouldn’t go as far as the US equivalent, which has even released its own song (yours for only $9.99).

For legal advice in this area please contact our family law team.  The Grandparents’ Association also provides expert advice to grandparents and their families through its website, helpline and support groups.

* National Grandparents’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of October each year and was launched in 1990 by Age Concern - now Age UK.