Coronation Street highlights the difficulties faced by grandparents
Coronation Street is one of the longest running British TV soaps and admittedly one of my own guilty pleasures.
The show has seen many family Law issues highlighted over the years.
The storyline which is keeping everybody gripped at the moment is Johnny Connor’s abduction of his granddaughter Susie.
Susie was believed to have been born by a surrogate mother (a blog for another day) and was initially cared for by Toyah Battersby and Peter Barlow.
The truth was finally revealed that Susie was the daughter of Eva and the late Aidan Connor.
Aidan’s father, Johnny found out about the baby's true parentage and decided he wanted to look after Susie. After an explosive row at mediation and fear that he would not be allowed to care for Susie, Johnny snatched the 11 week old baby and left the cobbles of Coronation Street.
This highlighted the turmoil some grandparents are faced with, especially those caught in the midst of a difficult breakup.
So, what are Johnny's rights to see his grandchild?
Sadly grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren and only those with what is known as parental responsibility can make an application to court for a child arrangements order. A child arrangements order is an order which decides who a child is to live with or spend time with.
Therefore, Johnny would need to ask the Court for their permission before making his application for a child arrangements order.
The factors which the Court will consider on an application for permission will include the following;
- The nature of the proposed application
- The applicant's connection with the child
- Any risk there might be of the application disrupting the child's life to such an extent that they could be at risk of suffering emotional abuse.
It is only when permission has been granted that a grandparent can then look to make a child arrangements application to Court.
The Court would then consider the welfare checklist when making a decision, which would include the following factors:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of changes in circumstances
- The potential impact of changes to the child’s life will be considered. The courts will aim to make an order that causes the least disruption to a child’s life, however, this will be balanced against the other factors to be considered.
- The child’s age, sex, background and other relevant characteristics
- Risk of harm to the child
- Parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs
Johnny should have perhaps tried to negotiate regular contact with Susie’s mother but instead, he is facing very serious consequences. His actions amount to child abduction which is a criminal offence holding a custodial sentence.
For people in Johnny’s position, where emotions are running high they may wish to consider using a third party to negotiate arrangements regarding children, such as a solicitor. A solicitor would have been able to act on Johnny’s behalf in a calm and non- confrontational way.
Are we seeing a growing trend in applications made by grandparents?
Unsurprisingly grandparents are playing very significant roles in our children’s lives. They offer assistance to families grappling with the cost of childcare.
However, when parents separate and divorce, grandparents can often be caught in the midst of feuding parents. Contact can be reduced or cut off altogether.
Unfortunately, statistics from the Ministry of Justice show the number of applications being made by grandparents are continuing to grow. In 2016 there were almost 2000 applications made for child arrangement orders by grandparents.
Some MPs are now calling for there to be a change to the legal system to make it easier for grandparents to assert their rights to see their grandchildren.
If you are a parent or grandparent and need help in arranging contact for your children please contact Anna on 01727 818525 or alternatively email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.