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Grandparents' rights and grandparents' campaigns [2007] CFLQ 17

Date:19 SEP 2011

Grandparents' pressure groups have been campaigning for enhanced legal rights in relation to grandchildren. This article examines those campaigns and their outcomes in the context of contact disputes with parents. Although the groups have not achieved their objective of legislative change, it is suggested that they have made gains in other ways. In England and Wales grandparents have been included as significant figures in the new parenting plans and in Scotland there is a new charter for grandchildren. It is argued that grandparent pressure groups have succeeded in establishing an extra-legal norm favouring contact between grandparents and grandchildren. It is suggested that this success cannot be attributed to empirical evidence demonstrating the benefits of such contact; the evidence is not conclusive. Rather it can be attributed to strategies aimed at reconstructing children's welfare to include ties with grandparents. In addition, the welfare principle has been re-interpreted to designate as harmful any resistance on the part of resident parents, usually mothers. Grandparent groups have benefited directly and indirectly from the campaigns of fathers' rights groups which have not only emphasised contact and continuity, but have politicised the issue and have opened the way to the condemnation of mothers who oppose contact. The effect of the success of these campaigns is likely to be increased pressure on resident mothers to accede to contact. This may be to the detriment of both mothers and children.

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