In many families, grandparents play a significant role in a child’s life. In positive situations, grandparents provide love, care and support complimenting the family dynamic, rather than creating conflicts with one or both parents.
NJ Grandparents’ Rights
In New Jersey, the Grandparent Visitation Statute enacted in 1971 and subsequently amended, promotes a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
A United States Supreme Court decision rendered in 2000 has arguably diminished grandparent rights here in New Jersey. As part of the legal analysis, there is a standard of harm to the child that must be considered. Grandparents have the right to make an application before the court seeking visitation with their grandchildren.
However, in order to prevail, the grandparent’s application has to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that granting the visitation is in the best interests of the child. The court is compelled to consider a number of factors, which include:
- The relationship between the child and the grandparent making the application;
- The time since the child last had contact with the grandparent making the application;
- The relationship between each of the child’s parents, or the person with whom the child resides, and the grandparent making the application;
- The effect that the visitation will have upon the relationship between the child and the child’s parents, or the person with whom the child is residing;
- If the parents are divorced or separated, the time sharing arrangement which exists between the parents, with regard to the child, must also be considered;
- The good faith of the application, being made by the grandparent;
- Any history of abuse, which includes physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or neglect by the grandparent; and
- Any other factor that is relevant to the best interest of the child.
Can I keep my child away from his grandparent?
Ultimately, the court’s decision must be in the child’s best interest. Not unlike most matters making their way before the Family part in New Jersey, grandparent visitation cases come with their own unique set of facts. The burden of proof is on the grandparent to demonstrate a harm, which must be satisfied by the preponderance of the evidence standard, not by the Grandparent Rights in New Jersey visitation standard.
If a court is able to determine that a grandparent has met the evidence standard that denying the grandparent visitation would harm the grandchild, then the parents must propose a schedule. If the grandparent asserts that the schedule is not sufficient, the court will then decide whether or not the schedule meets the child’s best interest based upon the factor set forth in the Grandparents Rights in New Jersey grandparent visitation statute.
What rights do grandparents have ?
Grandparents seeking to demonstrate that denying visitation will harm the child must first establish the significance and closeness of the relationship between the grandparent and the child. It may be necessary for the grandparent to obtain an expert opinion to demonstrate that the loss of the relationship would be negative to the best interest of the child.
If you have an issue pertaining to grandparent visitation rights in New Jersey contact our office today. Here at DeTorres & DeGeorge we have extensive experience handling grandparents’ rights matters. Schedule your consultation today.