Having grandparents in a child's life can have a very positive impact in a child's development, especially when the child does not live with his or her immediate family members. In this situation, grandparents can ask a court to give them visitation rights, just like a parent involved in a divorce may have visitation rights. If you are a New Jersey grandparent and feel you should be more involved in a grandchild's life, the following article describes the basics of grandparent visitation in New Jersey.
Visitation Rights in General
In a child custody case, courts will often grant visitation rights to a parent who isn't awarded physical custody. This is most common when the parent and child have a good relationship, but other circumstances make it difficult for the child to live with the parent.
Basics of Grandparent Visitation Rights
All fifty states have enacted what are often called "grandparents' visitation statutes." These laws allow non-parents, such as grandparents, siblings, etc. to ask the court for the right to spend time with a child, even when the child's parent won't allow it. The purpose of the laws is to strike a balance between the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit, and the belief that it is in a child's interest to spend time with his or her grandparents (even if a court has to require this). These laws either allow for court-ordered visitation when the family is not intact (by death, divorce, adoption, etc.) or when it is in the child's best interest.
Grandparent Visitation Rights in New Jersey
New Jersey's Grandparents' Visitation Statute allows a grandparent or sibling of a child residing in New Jersey to make an application for visitation. The applicant must prove that the visitation is in the best interest of the child. By its terms, this statute applies to families that remain together, as well as those where separation, death, or divorce have split the family. In making a determination about visitation, the court will consider eight factors:
- The relationship between the child and the applicant;
- The relationship between each of the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the applicant;
- The time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the applicant;
- The effect that such visitation will have on 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;
- The good faith of the applicant in filing the application;
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the applicant; and
- Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
By the time a grandparent feels it is necessary to go to court to force visitation with a grandchild over the objections of a parent, hostility between the parents and grandparents is likely to be high. Mediation is often helpful in these situations to help both sides see the positive aspects of continuing the grandparent-grandchild bond while respecting parental authority. However, in the end, the best interests of the child outweigh either of those considerations.
If you would like to know more about visitation rights for nonparents, or would like to know if this is an option for you, there are many family law attorneys throughout New Jersey who may be able to help.