Grandparents do not have any specific rights with regard to contact with grandchildren and I would be very much against there being any form of presumption of contact between them as in my view it is imperative that each application for contact with a child is judged on its own merits.
Not all grandparents are a positive influence and there may be good reasons why a parent wishes to exclude a grandparent from the child’s life.
A recent campaign spearheaded by Esther Rantzen is advocating for the courts to drop the requirement for those other than parents (and a small number of other exceptional circumstances) to require permission from the judge before starting an application. The reason that this requirement is present is to filter out serious applications in respect of children which may cause harm and disruption to the child for no need. One example may be a grandparent who has been convicted of serious sexual offences or where a relative has not been involved in the child’s life for many years and it is felt that the motivation is simply to undermine the parents. Where a grandparents application is genuine then the courts, in my experience, do not refuse the permission to apply and case will continue as usual.
In my view the real problem from grandparents and others is the court fee of over £200.00 per application and the lack of legal aid to pay for legal representation. These are the issues preventing people from accessing justice rather than the necessity to ask for permission from the judge before the main application proceeds.