Grandparents in France seek guardianship of British grandson

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A legal procedure initiated by a British couple in France to obtain the “special guardianship” of their grandson is set to become a test case on the recognition of British court decisions after Brexit.

Within the EU, a web of treaties and laws regulate mutual recognition, but this is more complex now that the UK is a third country.

Patricia Rowland, 59, from Deux-Sèvres, said she and her husband David, 58, were hoping for special guardianship of grandson Isaac, as her son and his partner were unable to care for him.

It is a status with rights and responsibilities similar to parenthood but allowing a child to maintain basic legal ties with their family of origin.

They work with British social services to obtain this status, but another obstacle will be the recognition of this status in France.

Ms Rowland, the school’s retired finance manager, said their eight-month-old grandson was currently cared for by his daughter in the UK.

“She has two young children of her own and cannot give him a forever home,” she said.

“So social services asked if we would be willing to take him. Because he is already in the care system, social services would take him to court. We said we would, but it all seemed to end when [full] Brexit has hit.

Covid travel restrictions add another challenge

They were told they needed to bond with the child, so they went to the North East of England for a six-week stay to spend time with him.

“We couldn’t get over it because of Covid and although we FaceTimed we didn’t physically see it,” she said.

“He’s awesome, he’s adorable. We went to my daughter’s house or brought him to our house.

Ms Rowland said they expect social services to tell a court that they approve after their assessments of the family. However, they have been told they cannot have full special guardianship until their grandson has lived with them for 12 weeks – and usually a child in care is not allowed to go abroad.

Social services have therefore offered to grant them an order which will turn into special guardianship status after 12 weeks.

“They fear, however, that anything they do in UK courts will be accepted by French courts. It would have been long before Brexit, but we are the first to do it after Brexit, and it will become case law.

International social workers will need to be involved, Ms Rowland said.

In the meantime, she said the French have been “incredible”.

Authorities provided criminal record checks in four days, and their mayor was “fantastic” and wrote a character reference.

Ms Rowland said: ‘We are fit and young at heart and have lots of friends and a good community. “I think Isaac could have the best childhood ever, growing up in France.”

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