Before the Children Act 1989 came into force in October 1991, grandparents (and other relatives) could play roles in the lives of children, but only through the mechanism of wardship proceedings.
The Children Act opened up the categories of people who could apply for orders relating to children; residence orders, contact orders, specific issue orders. Grandparents (and other relatives) initially have to seek the leave of the court to proceed with an application. However, such applications are often considered favourably on the basis that it is in the children’s best interests to maintain links and continue to spend time with relatives with whom they have formed close bonds.
Particularly where both parents work, grandparents are often actively involved in the upbringing of children. It can therefore be upsetting for children if that bond is jeopardised because of divorce.
Sometimes, when Social Services become involved, grandparents are looked upon as one option for providing continuity of family care in a foster parent type role. As they are related to children, grandparents performing this role were not previously eligible for foster care allowances but a change in the law now makes them eligible to receive these payments.
However, applications by grandparents need to be handled with judgement and care so that they can provide a support to the children and the family and are not a threat to its continuation.