Grandparents in New Jersey have limited rights when it comes to spending time with their grandchildren. The New Jersey courts and New Jersey law are strongly behind parents when it comes to questions regarding visitation and the roles that grandparents may play in the lives of the grandkids. Trying to spend more time with your grandchildren? Here are some avenues that grandparents can take when asking the court for visitation time with their grandchildren.
In 1993, New Jersey law was amended giving grandparents the right to seek visitation if denied by the parent(s). Prior to the change, N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1 provided that grandparents had the right to make an application in the Supreme Court for “grandparenting time” only if it would be in the grandchild’s best interest and one or both of the parents of the minor child was deceased or if the parents of the minor child were divorced or separated and the grandparent was denied access.
After the law was amended, grandparents were given the right to seek court ordered grandparent time provided that they prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, or “more likely than not” that the grandparents’ time is necessary to avoid harm to the child.
In 2003, the court created a procedure to be followed in every case where grandparents sought visitation with a grandchild:
– The grandparents must first show that it is more likely than not that visitation is necessary to avoid harm to the child.
– If grandparents are able to meet that burden, then the parents must offer a visitation schedule.
– If the grandparents reject the schedule, then parent’s proposed visitation schedule will be looked at by the judge to determine if it is in the child’s best interest based on the statute.
– If the visitation is not denied by the parents, but the grandparents seek a different schedule, the grandparents are then required to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed schedule is inadequate to avoid harm to the child. If the grandparents are able to meet that burden, the courts will then be required to develop a schedule that is in the best interest of the child.
– It is not always easy to prove that harm will come to the child if a grandparent is not allowed “grandparenting time.” It is easier, however, to prove this if the grandparent was, at any time, a full-time caregiver to the child.
As always, the courts respect a parent’s fundamental right to make decisions regarding the care, custody and control of their children. If the parent proposes a schedule to the grandparents that the court considers reasonable then that will be the schedule.
If you are a grandparent and have questions about visitation with your grandchildren, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys experienced with grandparents’ rights.