I am often asked what rights do grandparents have, so I thought I would write this post, for the benefit of non-lawyers.
Grandparents (and, in fact, any other interested person) have the same rights as parents, as they can apply for the same orders (residence, contact, prohibited steps and specific issue orders) as parents. The only difference is that, unlike parents, they have to obtain the leave (or permission) of the court, before proceeding with the application. Leave will be granted in most cases unless, for example, the court considers that there is a risk that the application may cause serious disruption to the child's life.
The most common type of application made by grandparents is for contact with their grandchildren. Once leave is granted, the court will use the usual principles to decide the matter, such as the ascertainable wishes of the child, the effect on the child of any change in circumstances and how capable the applicants are of meeting the child's needs. Most grandparents are granted contact, as it is generally considered that it is beneficial for children to have a relationship with their grandparents. However, the grandparents would obviously not normally be granted the same amount of contact as a parent.
Lack of contact by grandparents is often linked to lack of contact by the absent parent, i.e. the grandparents' child. If the parent is him/herself making an application for contact then consideration should be given to whether it is necessary for the grandparents to also make an application, as often grandparents have contact during periods of contact by the parent. If it is considered necessary for both the parent and grandparents to make applications, then often the court will consolidate both applications, so that they are dealt with together.
Of course, the above is just a statement of the law. For advice specific to any particular matter, consult a solicitor.