There is a moving article in The Times today. It describes the attempts of a grandfather (who happens to be a retired judge) and his family to obtain contact with his grandchildren, after the death of his son. He found the experience to be "as dispiriting as it was depressing", with a thoroughly unsatisfactory outcome. He concludes:
"Contact applications do not lend themselves to the adversarial process. The welfare of the children should not involve a court battle between factions. A better, more civilised way must be found. And why should grandparents have to make an application for leave? We will never desert our son’s children. If contact cannot be agreed a further application will be made."
Can a more civilised way be found? I know that there are many who believe that the answer to this is a resounding "Yes", and I've come across many good ideas since I've been writing this blog, but none that have convinced me that we can do away with the courts, unless matters can be agreed. Having said that, there is nothing to stop the courts using an inquisitorial process in children disputes, and that would surely be a step in the right direction.
As to the issue of leave, in my experience this has always been pretty much a formality in grandparent applications, so I can see no reason why grandparents should have this extra hurdle to overcome.