Grandparent Rights in the State of New Jersey
In New Jersey a grandparent typically will be granted the right to visitation during and once the divorce is final. If the Grandparent is being denied visitation he or she or both must file an application with the Superior court in the County in which the child resides. At this point in time it is up to the grandparent(s) to prove to the court that visitation with them is in the best interests of the child. The New Jersey court looks out for the child above and beyond anything else.
Visitation rights of grandparents are controlled by a statute, N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1.
A grandparent or any sibling of a child residing in this State may make application before the Superior Court, in accordance with the Rules of Court, for an order for visitation. It shall be the burden of the applicant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the granting of visitation is in the best interests of the child.
If a parent denies a grandparent the right to visit with a grandchild, the grandparent has the right to make an application to the court for an order to compel visitation. The grandparent bears the burden of proving that visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild. That proof must be by “a preponderance of the evidence.” This means the scales must tip in favor of visitation. In making a determination, the court must consider the following factors:
- the relationship between the child and the grandparent;
- the relationship between each of the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing, and the grandparent;
- the time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the grandparent;
- 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 grandparent in filing the application;
- any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent; and
- any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
Only those grandparents who have had a direct, personal relationship with the child should make an application to the court. A grandparent must demonstrate serious physical or psychological harm to the child if visitation is denied. The harm must be a particular and identifiable harm to the child, not just a general allegation of harm. Only if that harm is proven will the parent’s right to rear their child as they see fit be overcome. Only then will the court decide the visitation issue, based on the child’s best interests.
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines in New Jersey and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
By: Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
800 787 4981