In Custody Disputes, What are Grandparents Rights in New Jersey?
By Alicia Hutchinson, Esq. (Marlton, NJ Office)
Rhere are few things more painful to a grandparent than being denied a continuing relationship with their grandchild.
This feels instinctively wrong, particularly to a grandparent who is frustrated and hurt that the breakdown of their child’s relationship has effectively also excluded them from the life of their grandchild. The subject comes up a lot in family law practice.
There’s a lot of ‘truthiness’ to the idea that grandparents have some independent right to see their grandchild: it feels like it should be right, so people tend to proceed as if it is without finding out if it’s actually legally true. As to whether grandparents have any ‘right’ to seek visitation with their grandchild, the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: historically, there was no legal recourse for grandparents who were denied visitation with their grandchildren. Under due process, parents are considered to have broad leeway in deciding who should and should not have access to their child without state interference.
Currently, while New Jersey law recognizes that grandparents and extended families do play an important role in the lives of children, grandparents’ rights as such are not still recognized under NJ law. A grandparent still has no independent, intrinsic right to see their grandchild simply by virtue of being the child’s grandparent, and under most circumstances must abide by the decision of their children or their grandchild’s other parent as to visitation.
There is hope for grandparents in New Jersey who’ve had a uniquely close bond with their grandchild which is now being involuntarily severed by a custodial parent: they may apply for visitation with a minor child over the objections of the custodial parent.
Under the Grandparents’ Visitation Act, the grandparent seeking visitation over the objections of the custodial parent must address the following factors, summarized from the Grandparent’s Visitation Act:
1. The relationship between the child and the grandparent.
2. The relationship between each of the child’s parents (or people with whom the child resides) and the grandparent.
3. The time which has elapsed since the grandparent last had contact with the applicant.
4. The effect that visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the people with whom the child resides (typically the parents).
5. If the parents are divorced or separated, the parenting time arrangement between the parents or custodial people.
6. The good faith of the grandparent in filing the application.
7. Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent.
8. Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
The law doesn’t care that it is hurting a grandparent to not be allowed to see the grandchild. Remember: grandparents’ rights, as such, don’t exist. The law does care whether the child is suffering a particular harm because their parent is no longer letting them spend time together.
Demonstrating this special bond is tricky.
Here at the Law Offices of Lynda Hinkle, we’re familiar with helping grandparents navigate the judicial process in order to maintain their special bond with their grandchild. We encourage grandparents interested in exploring their judicial options for maintaining a relationship with their grandchild to call 856-227-7888 or [email protected] to schedule your free consultation.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.