What are Your Rights as a Grandparent in New Jersey?
With the ongoing and complex rise of divorces in New Jersey, single parenthood and alcohol and drug use by individuals, the legal questions surrounding protection of the relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren has become complicated. More and more, grandparents are looking to the courts to obtain visitation time with their grandchildren. Often, this is a difficult process that requires an aggressive legal strategy. At the Elfant Rickett Law Firm, we understand the special bond between a grandparent and grandchild and we are committed to fighting for your rights to visitation or custody. Our firm’s founder, Rosa Rickett, has dedicated her career to family law matters like this and she serves as a trusted adviser and advocate through every phase of the legal process. If you have questions regarding your rights as a grandparent in New Jersey or you are seeking visitation or custody, contact our offices in Hackensack today at 201.968.5700 to schedule a consultation.
Understanding Grandparents’ Rights in NJ
New Jersey’s Grandparents’ Visitation Statute, N.J.S.A. 9:27.1, allows a grandparent residing in New Jersey to make an application for visitation. The grandparent must prove that visitation is in the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court must consider eight factors, including:
- The relationship between the child and the grandparent
- The relationship between the parents and the grandparents
- The time that has elapsed since the child last saw the grandparent
- The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents
- If the parents are divorced or separated, the time sharing arrangements that exist between the parents with regard to the child
- The good faith of the grandparent filing the application
- Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the party
- Any other factor relevant to the best interest of the child
The ultimate decision that the Court will have to make in any grandparent visitation case is whether it will serve the best interests of the child. Courts carefully consider the length of the relationship and the frequency of actual contact between the child and the grandparent, as primary evidence that the relationship should be preserved. The court will also look at the “totality of the circumstances” when it makes an ultimate decision and issues a Court Order on any grandparent visitation application.
The Arguments for Grandparent Visitation Rights
- Grandparents may provide a stabilizing role in their grandchildren’s lives particularly after a divorce or crisis (such as the death or serious illness of a parent).
- Where grandparents have been involved in a child’s life, it can be traumatic for the child to suddenly be denied access to his or her grandparent.
- The mere fact that parents are divorced, or that the grandparent’s child dies or is significant ill, or incarcerated, should not automatically serve to grant the custodial parent the right to sever a positive relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.
What Evidence will I Need to Convince a Court to Grant me Visitation Rights with my Grandchildren?
- The love, affection, and other emotional ties that exist between the child and the grandparent;
- The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent;
- The role performed by the grandparent;
- The grandparent’s moral fitness;
- The grandparent’s mental and physical health;
- The child’s reasonable preference;
- The willing of the grandparent to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent;
- The effect of the child of hostility between the parent and the grandparent;
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect of any child by the grandparent;
- Whether the parent’s decision to deny visitation is reasonable;
- Any other factor relevant to the physical or psychological well-being of the child.
Other sources of proof include testimony from friends and neighbors. You will also need to show that visitation is in your grandchild’s best interest. Photographs and videotapes showing you spending time with and, having fun with your grandchild are a good way to help you establish the nature of your relationship. Other adults who have seen you spend quality time with your grandchild make good witnesses for this purpose. You may also want to have a psychologist or a therapist to testify about the importance of your grandchildren having a relationship with you.
Contact a Hackensack Grandparent Rights Attorney for Help
If you are a grandparent seeking visitation or custody of your grandchild in New Jersey, it is normal to have questions and you may feel unsure about how best to proceed. Contact The Elfant Rickett Law Firm in Bergen County anytime to find the answers you need. We can be reached at 201.968.5700 or contact us online to schedule your consultation. With offices in Hackensack, we assist clients in Morris County, Essex County, Passaic County, Hudson County, and throughout New Jersey.