Viewpoint—More Grandparents’ Stories

Continued grandparent support

grandparents

Gerald Culhane spoke in his witness statement before the Joint Senate and House of Commons Committee from his many years of experience of working with grandparents who only wanted to continue to see and help their grandchildren after a divorce or death of a parent.

Canada’s justice system has a lot to answer for in their many family court decisions, which showed little regard for former Justice Minister Mark MacGuigan’s advice: “A child should have maximum access to both parents.” As well, the courts paid little attention to the importance of maintaining and keeping the loving relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.

Canada’s traditional regard and respect for the family unit and belief in protecting the youngest in society, along with our love and respect for our elders, is not always evident in the way the law is applied in Family Court.

The following stories show just how cruel and thoughtless a custodial parent may be after a divorce or death of a parent. A major issue in families in distress is often due to a court decision that does not honour both parents or consider the best interests of the child (or children). Grandchildren benefit from a continued warm relationship with their grandparents who will be there to love them and care for them. To deny grandparents this right is mean-spirited and may cause serious harm as time goes by when the children grow up without extended family connections. Past court decisions that did not protect the whole family have been proven wrong.

OUR MISSING GRANDCHILDREN

Life today for us is as though we never had grandchildren, as if they never existed … except for the ache in our hearts. Our two grandchildren have been taken from our lives as the result of the separation of their parents. They are denied all telephone contact with us, and us with them. Even when we try to contact them, through their maternal relatives, we were stopped.

Their mother has been told they can call us collect any time, but she stops this from happening. They had a close relationship with us from the day they were born. Until they were old enough to attend school, they spent much of their lives in our home, by the ocean. After that, they would come for extended stays during the holidays. They were as comfortable in our home as in their own. There are still many reminders of their presence around our home. Their own drawer in the kitchen, where prize possessions are kept, their bikes in the garage, their pictures on the walls, and we rescued and are looking after their pet dog. Suddenly they are gone leaving a void in both our lives. We miss them terribly, and constantly wonder how they are able to accept the upheaval in their lives.

They are living somewhere in Ontario, and all our efforts to find where have gone to nought. We have no idea how they are coping with losing everything they had known to date, especially the loss of their father. We wonder how they are doing in school. Would we even know if they were really sick. So many questions and no answers.The Family Court system claims they act in the “best interests of the child,” but this is far from the truth. Family Law is part of the adversarial system and pits one parent against the other. In the end, all they do is inflict emotional abuse on young lives, by “awarding” them to one of their parents . . . . like a trophy. In family court, the wishes and desires of the children are not even considered. The children are expected to understand that one of the parents they dearly love will disappear from their lives. Although we requested to be allowed to become advocates for our grandchildren in the court hearing, we were told the case was between only the two parents. Our society would consider anyone asking children to choose between one or the other of their parents to be inflicting emotional abuse, yet Family Court Judges do not even give the children that choice. They arbitrarily tear the children from one parent and allow the “winner” to deny all contact with all those the children have known and loved so far in their young lives.

The Family Court system claims they act in the “best interests of the child,” but this is far from the truth. Family Law is part of the adversarial system and pits one parent against the other. In the end, all they do is inflict emotional abuse on young lives, by “awarding” them to one of their parents . .  . like a trophy. In Family Court, the wishes and desires of the children are not even considered. The children are expected to understand that one of the parents they dearly love will disappear from their lives. Although we requested to be allowed to become advocates for our grandchildren in the court hearing, we were told the case was between only the two parents.

Our society would consider anyone asking children to choose between one or the other of their parents to be inflicting emotional abuse, yet Family Court judges do not even give the children that choice. They arbitrarily tear the children from one parent and allow the “winner” to deny all contact with all those the children have known and loved so far in their young lives.

If society really wants Family Court to act “in the best interests of the child,”  it must press for the law to be changed away from the adversarial system to one of mediation and co-operation as soon as possible. Judges must change from being confrontational and make decisions that acknowledge joint custody as the best solution for the children to grow up well adjusted and not become statistics in the Young Offenders’ Court records.

DENYING GRANDPARENTS THEIR LEGACY

Some years ago a grandfather and his wife babysat his granddaughter until she was four while her parents (his daughter and her husband) worked. Then his daughter died, and when his wife said something that displeased their son-in-law, he retaliated by sending a lawyer’s letter informing the grandparents that they were not to see their granddaughter again.

As almost always happens in this situation, the grandparents tried to keep contact with cards and presents, but they were all returned.

When the father married again and started a new family, their granddaughter was put into a foster home.

Fortunately, when a Director of CGRA heard the grandfather’ story, she went to work immediately and found out that the granddaughter, now 21, was living on her own. Within a day the Director had found her, and the following day she took the granddaughter to her grandfather’s house.

So very happy, the grandfather remarked “She’s a beautiful girl, looks just like her mother at that age. I’m delighted now I’ve seen her, and she’s still alive and alright.” There have been other visits since then, and his granddaughter has even taken her boyfriend to meet her grandfather. Granddaughter and grandfather’s lives are happy again.

 

COMMENTS

If only their son-in-law had taken the time to think about his actions, and how much harm he would cause to both his daughter and her grandfather when he had sent the lawyer’s letter to his daughter’s grandfather.

And later, when he placed his daughter in a foster home when he married again ,

If he no longer wished his daughter to live in his home, why not contact her grandfather who he knew loved his daughter very much? The grandfather would give her a good home, and could tell his granddaughter stories about her mother who had loved her so much before she died. That father caused his daughter many lost years of family companionship with her grandfather.

 

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