London: Grandparents are to be given legal rights to maintain contact with their grandchildren after a divorce in the UK.

A report yesterday set out radical proposals to enshrine in law greater access rights for grandparents when couples split, Whitehall sources revealed.

The review of the family justice system will also mean couples being pushed into mediation to sort out contact arrangements rather than resorting to the courts.

It rejected calls for guaranteed equal access to children for separating mothers and fathers.

The report, by former civil servant and businessman David Norgrove, will herald the biggest shake-up in UK family law for decades.

Ministers say it is a scandal there is "little or no" recognition of the vital role grandparents play. Research suggests they are increasingly relied on for help with childcare and finances.


But currently, they have no rights to maintain contact after a parental split.

Almost half face the heartbreak of being cut off completely and never see their grandchildren again.

The Children Act 1989 gave step-parents who have lived as part of a family for three years the right to apply for contact, but not grandparents.

That means grandparents have to apply to the courts even to be given permission to make a request for some sort of contact, a lengthy and expensive process.

"It will mean putting into law a recognition for grandparents and the important role they can play in supporting children who are involved in bitter custody disputes," said a source.

"If they are denied access to their grandchildren who goes off with one parent, they should be able to appeal against that and take it to court."