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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Grandparents seek access rights
Child
The executive plans to revamp family law
Grandparents should be given the legal right of access to their grandchildren, campaigners have told MSPs.

The call was made by Jimmy Deuchars of the Scots-based Grandparents Apart Self-Help Group to a Holyrood committee examining family law reform.

The Scottish Executive plans to increase the rights of cohabiting couples and unmarried fathers.

But Mr Deuchars said there should be a legal "presumption" in favour of grandparents having visitation rights.

Mr Deuchars told the justice 1 committee: "We don't want to take (responsibilities) away from the mother or father, all we want to do is contact our grandchildren and make sure they're okay.

"In a lot of places grandchildren are being abused, the grandparents know about it, but they're frightened to say because they're excommunicated because they have not got any rights."

Mr Deuchars said a grandchild could make a claim on their grandparent's estate on death if their own parent was already deceased, but the grandparent had no legal relationship in life.

"At the moment if we ask social services about our grandchildren, they'll not tell you anything, they'll say: 'I don't have to speak to you, you're an irrelevant person'," he told MSPs.

We do not believe that a legal right of contact is the best way to proceed
Scottish Executive

Measures under the proposed legislation include speeding up divorces.

However, while ministers recognise the importance of grandparents' input in a child's upbringing they decided that parents should determine who has access to their children.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said there were plans for a Grandparents' Charter which would address the concerns of grandparents through means other than legislation.

"We do not believe that a legal right of contact is the best way to proceed," she said.

"Rights are given in relation to children in order to allow a person to fulfil his or her parental responsibilities, not to ensure that person's continuing relationship with the child."

'Continuing relationship'

She added that ministers had "sympathy" with the plight of grandparents who find it difficult to maintain contact with their grandchildren because of separation or divorce.

But she said: "Rights are given in relation to children in order to allow a person to fulfil his or her parental responsibilities, not to ensure that person's continuing relationship with the child.

"Providing a right of contact could result in a number of adults having rights of contact, placing a child under some pressure to maintain multiple relationships with adults in often difficult situations.

"The executive is however determined to address grandparents' concerns through means other than legislation.

"That's why we will be working with the family law stakeholder group, including grandparents' representatives, to draw up a grandparents' charter."


SEE ALSO:
Family bill under Catholic attack
11 May 05 |  Scotland
Family bill 'puts children first'
08 Feb 05 |  Scotland
'Don't forget the grandparents'
08 Feb 05 |  Scotland
Increase in births and marriages
23 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Wedding trends ring the changes
30 Jul 04 |  Scotland
New family law reforms proposed
05 Apr 04 |  Scotland


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