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New Parenting Arrangements should be welcomed if they deliver the promised change – law could go further

NEW PARENTING ARRANGEMENTS should be welcomed but with some reservation argues family lawyer Neil Grunfeld.

Grunfeld believes Government recommendations concerning grandparents’ access to grandchildren in the event of a divorce or separation are very much to be applauded, although they have been some time in coming.

The New Parenting Agreements will explicitly set out contact arrangements for grandparents that can be used in court, if arrangements are broken by either parent.

Grunfeld head of family law at Howards & Henry’s Solicitors states: “These recommendations are long overdue as The Children Act 1989 neglected to give grandparents any contact powers. Saying that, the new proposals recognise the crucial role grandparents play in many family lives with financial, childcare and emotional support.”

However Grunfeld expresses a note of caution over this part of the sweeping review of the family justice regime: “The collaborative approach being promoted by the Government follows the outlook of forward thinking family law practitioners.”

However, in practice such arrangements need to be respected and binding. We have seen in-built weaknesses regarding the obligation for divorcing couples to seek mediation before going to court. I don’t think NPAs will follow suit, but flaws in other proposals to the family justice system do not provide confidence.”

Grunfeld believes the Government’s overhaul of the family justice regime could go even further: “Grandparents need to get leave just to be able to apply to the courts for permission to take care of grandchildren. I think this unnecessary barrier should be removed.

The law needs to put the interests of the child first. If grandparents can supply the love and needs that a child must have they should be considered as guardians, especially if there are solid reasons for believing the parents cannot.”

Grunfeld concludes: “The Government is heading in the right direction, but still has a little way to go before family law completely conforms to the reality of many family situations.”