One of the more heartbreaking situations that occurs with families in crisis is that grandchildren and grandparents can have their relationships damaged.
The good news is that in many of these circumstances, by New Jersey law, Grandparents have visitation rights to spend time with their grandchildren.
Indeed, the New Jersey grandparent visitation rights statute specifically says:
" A grandparent...of any child residing in this State may make application before the Superior Court...for an order for visitation."
The Statute makes it clear that It shall be the obligation of the grandparent to prove that the granting of visitation is in the "best interests of the child".
How, though, should a grandparent go about proving that it is "in the best interest of the child" for the child to have a relationship with the grandparent over the objection of one or both of the child's parents?
There are seven specific factors that a judge must consider when deciding whether to grant a grandparent visitation:
(1) The relationship between the child and the grandparent;
(2) The relationship between each of the child's parents and the grandparent;
(3) The time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the grandparent;
(4) The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the childs parents;
(5) If the parents are divorced or separated, the visitation arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child;
(6) The good faith of the grandparent in filing the application; and
(7) Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent.
In addition to these seven specific factors that a court must consider, the statute goes on to grant the judge the authority to consider:
"Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child."
Grandparents are further supported in their efforts to have contact with their grandchildren by Subpart C of the statute, which suggests that
"...visitation is in the child’s best interest if the applicant had, in the past, been a full-time caretaker for the child."
Thus, the bottom line is that Courts in New Jersey are empowered with the tools necessary to protect the very important relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild so long as it will not be harmful to the child to do so.
Steven J. Kaplan, Esq.
Law Practice Specializing In
Divorce and Related Issues
5 Professional Circle
Colts Neck, NJ. 07722