Many times when a rift occurs between parents and their adult children, grandparents are denied the ability to have a relationship with their grandchildren. When a positive relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is interrupted and a resolution can’t be reached by talking through the problem, there are other options available. In New Jersey, grandparents have the right to petition the courts for visitation rights.
Rule N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1. provides the legal right for a grandparent to file a petition with the court to have visitation with their grandchildren. This isn’t a guarantee a grandchild and grandparent will be reunited, but it does provide an opportunity to prove visitation rights would be best for the grandchild.
Grandparents will be asked to answer many questions from the court to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that visitation is in the best interest of their grandchild, including:
- The type of relationship experienced between the grandparent and child(ren)
- The parent or guardian relationship with the grandparent(s)
- The last time the child(ren) and grandparent(s) had contact of any kind
- How visitation with the grandparent(s) will affect the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child(ren)
- Parent sharing agreements between divorced parents
- History of abuse committed by grandparent(s) regarding grandchild(ren) or child(ren)
- Any other relevant questions as presented by the grandparent(s), grandchild(ren) or parent(s)
The purpose of these questions is to prove that a pre-existing relationship is apparent between the child and their grandparent. For example, if you’ve served as the child’s full-time caretaker, that information is used by the court as proof of a strong bond between you and your grandchild. The answers to these questions play an important role in the court’s decision to grant or deny visitation rights.
Grandparents’ Rights Services
Our experienced family law attorneys are here to help you navigate the process when fighting for your visitation rights. Our firm begins with filing the proper paperwork with the appropriate court. From there, we’ll be on your side as we advocate on your behalf to the courts to clearly show how your involvement in your grandchild’s life is beneficial.
Our services include:
- Gathering evidence to help prove your claim
- Deposing parties as needed
- Creating an appropriate timeline to answer necessary questions requested by the courts
- Standing with you and helping you argue your case in either mediation or litigation
- Follow through with any appeals as required
Frequently Asked Questions About Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
Below are some frequently asked questions and answers regarding grandparents’ visitation rights in New Jersey to help you better understand the process.
Do grandparents have visitation rights in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1, grandparents have the right to file an application with the courts to compel visitation with their grandchildren. Once this application is filed, the grandparents maintain the burden of proof. This means they must prove it is in the best interest of the child to maintain communication and visitation.
How does someone apply for grandparents’ visitation rights?
In order to apply for grandparent visitation, an application must be filed with the court. Once that is filed the courts will ask the grandparents to answer several questions relating to their relationship with their grandchild and other pertinent questions. For instance, grandparents will be asked about the last time they saw their grandchild, the relationship they had with their grandchild and the child’s parents, and whether there was any history of abuse.
Can I obtain legal custody of my grandchild?
New Jersey allows grandparents to obtain custody of their grandchildren under very specific circumstances. First a petition must be filed with the courts to petition for legal custody of the grandchild. Once that’s complete it must be shown that the parents meet at least one of the following criteria:
- The parents are deemed unfit
- The parents are abusing drugs or alcohol
- The parents consent to giving the grandparents custody
- The parents have a history of mental illness that can cause them to be considered unfit
- One parent is unfit in any way and the other parent does not want custody of the child
In addition to proving the above criteria is met, the grandparents must not have a history of abuse or being deemed unfit in any way.
What can I do if my grandchild(ren)’s parents are divorced or getting a divorce?
Parental divorce is one of the more common reasons for a grandparent to seek court assistance in compelling visitation. If a grandchild’s parents are getting divorced or are in the process of getting a divorce, you as the grandparent can still petition the courts for grandchild visitation. The grandparents must be able to prove the importance of their presence in their grandchild’s life and that they will not interfere with parenting time as scheduled by the divorce decree and custody agreement.
If the grandparents are seen as a positive addition to the grandchild(ren)’s life, then visitation will likely be granted by the court, even if the parents are divorced. The courts will likely take into account the parenting time schedule and add the grandparents in accordingly.
A New Jersey Law Firm to Help Achieve Your Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
If you’re in a situation where you have been refused visitation with your grandchild(ren), you may need a New Jersey lawyer that can help reunite you. Whether you wish to see your grandchild or need help obtaining custody of them, our firm is here to help. Our experienced lawyers can help guide you through the complex procedure, starting with filing the proper paperwork with the New Jersey family courts. Once the courts have accepted your petition, our qualified lawyers will help you collect evidence and present a strong case, whether in the courtroom or in front of a mediator.
If there are any issues regarding your family complying with the decision of the court, our firm is here to help appeal the case or enforce the court order. Our main goal throughout the process is to reestablish a grandparent’s relationship with their grandchild.