Grandparents and Visitation: Do You Have Rights?
There is something uniquely special about the relationship that is formed when parents become grandparents and welcome grandkids into the family. But sometimes, due to separation or divorce, the relationship that grandparents enjoyed with their grandchildren becomes strained or even ends. There may be bitterness or anger between the divorced spouses and their former in-laws. Or, the parent with custody of the children may move further away from the grandparents making spending time together more difficult, time consuming and expensive.
What if you had a really strong relationship with your grandchildren? What if you watched them while their parents went to work? What if you saw them almost daily? Do you have the right to court-ordered visitation with them, even if one or both of their parents disagree?
There is actually a law on the books here in New Jersey that talk about grandparent visitation rights and the ability for a grandparent to go to the court and ask the judge to compel visitation if the parent of the child is refusing. But, the grandparent has the burden to prove that not having the visitation would actually harm the child and that the visitation is in the child’s best interests. This is a tough standard. In making a decision about whether or not to order grandparent visitation, the court looks at the factors contained in the statute:
First, Judges will consider any evidence to determine whether the child will be harmed without the court-ordered visitation, including but not limited to:
- one parent’s death
- life-altering changes in the child’s home during or after the parents’ divorce or separation
- an established grandparent-grandchild relationship, and
- expert testimony that the child would suffer specific psychological harm.
Then the judge, in weighing whether or not the visitation is in the child’s best interests, looks at:
- your relationship with the child
- your relationship with the child’s parents
- the length of time since the child has had contact with you
- the potential impact on the child’s relationship with his or her parent(s) if the proposed time is granted
- the parents’ visitation arrangement (if they are divorced)
- your reasons for requesting visits
- any history of sexual or physical abuse by you or the child’s parent(s), and
- any other factor that is relevant to the child’s best interests.
If you ever served as your grandchild’s full-time caretaker, the court will consider this strongly as good evidence that your proposed visits now are in your grandchild’s best interests.
As you can see, it’s not an easy path. The U.S. Constitution grants parents the ultimate rights to make decisions regarding their children and with whom they will spend time is one of those decisions. If you can, attempt to work it out with your grandkid’s parents in an amicable way. Hopefully, you can work out some type of visitation that works for the entire family so that you can preserve your strong and loving relationship with your grandkids now and into the future.
For a visual overview of Grandparents’ Rights in New Jersey, we have put together the following presentation:
If you have any further questions about grandparent visitation or any other area of family law, contact us today to schedule your confidential consultation with one of our experienced and qualified family law attorneys. Take the first step. Call: (888) 888-0919.
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