The New Jersey Supreme Court, in the case of Major v. Maguire, may have just given grandparents looking to establish visitation with their grandchildren a greater opportunity to make their case. In the past, grandparents asking the court for visitation with grandchildren did not always have the luxury of an extended hearing where they could bring in witnesses, experts or other evidence to support their request. In New Jersey, the courts typically strongly defer to the parents’ constitutional rights to determine who can and cannot visit with their children.
However, in the Major case, the Court found that some grandparent visitation cases may actually call for extended discovery and case management conferences. The grandparents in Major wanted to have an expert witness to prove that their grandchild would suffer harm if the child could not see them. The trial court denied this, but the Supreme Court found that the grandparents should have been allowed the extended hearing to prove their burden that the child would be harmed from lack of contact.
Will hearings in grandparent visitation matters become the norm? Probably not. As the court stated, “It is the rare case that will require the trial court to embark on a comprehensive inquiry into family history or probe the relationships of warring adults” and hammered home that the best interests of the child remain most important to the courts. The Court further stated that “family judges have broad discretion to tailor the proceedings” but that they must ensure that the best interests of the child “remain paramount.”
Are you a grandparent seeking visitation with your grandchild? Our experienced family law attorneys can guide you in finding the solution to protect your relationships. Please contact us to schedule your confidential consultation.