A Glasgow couple reveal
why they want a change in the law to recognise the rights of grandparents
Jimmy and Margaret Deuchars’ daughter Susan was seven months pregnant when
she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. From her hospital bed she asked
her parents to make a promise that after she died they would look after her
two-year-old daughter and baby girl.
“It was such a difficult time but we told her that we would always be there
for them,” says Jimmy. “We loved them and they were our last link to our
Three years after Susan died, her husband, Joe, and his new girlfriend
announced they were moving from Glasgow to Liverpool. Jimmy and Margaret, who
had given much of their time to caring for the children, were sad to see them go
but agreed to visit and have the girls to stay.
It wasn’t long before the arrangements began to unravel. Visits were
cancelled on the flimiest of pretexts. Meetings that did take place were
stressful and often cut short. Afterwards Jimmy and Margaret would drive back to
Glasgow in tears, fearing that they were being pushed out of their
“It was like losing Susan all over again,” says Margaret. “It was devastating
to think we might lose touch with Nicola and Joanne, too. Our two sons would
say, ‘You don’t have to put yourself through this’. But people don’t realise the
bond that exists between grandparents and their grandchildren. There was no way
we could let them go.”
After six months without seeing the children, the couple grew desperate. “We
thought that was it — we were being denied contact altogether,” says Jimmy.
Remembering the promise they had made to their daughter they hired a lawyer but
were shocked to learn that they had no legal rights to see their grandchildren.
“In the eyes of the law, we are classed as irrelevant persons,” says Jimmy.
“There is no need to acknowledge grandparents.”
It’s a predicament that more and more grandparents are facing. As the divorce
rate rises, an estimated 7,000 people in the UK are being forcibly kept apart
from their grandchildren. According to the Grandparents’ Association, 90% of the
callers who contact them are fearful of being cut out of their grandchildren’s
lives after a relationship break-up. In many cases the close relationship they
enjoyed with the children is destroyed along with the marriage.
For the Deuchars the situation was resolved after a mediation session,
arranged by a family court in Liverpool, at which both sides got a chance to air
their views. Jimmy says it began badly, with a barrage of accusations, but
eventually an agreement was reached. He and Margaret could see Nicola and Joanne
once a month and have them to stay during school holidays.
“It was terrifying at the time,” says Margaret. “The night before the court
date I never slept a wink. I was so worried about not being allowed to see the
Since then visits have become much more frequent and relaxed after Jimmy and
Margaret’s son-in-law, Joe, split up with his girlfriend. “He was never the
problem,” says Jimmy. “It was his former girlfriend who didn’t want anything to
do with his first wife’s family.”
Now they are older, Nicola, 15, and Joanne, 17, stay with their grandparents
during the school holidays. “We have some special moments. They tell me things
that they wouldn’t tell their dad. I like that we have that trust. That’s what
grannies are for,” says Margaret.
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