Grandparents’ Rights in New Jersey
Divorce often has consequences that reach beyond the immediate family. While spouses and children can feel the loss most acutely, others, including grandparents, can be devastated by the process. Alternatively, grandparents who provided significant care or guidance may suddenly find themselves on the outside, with great uncertainty about their rights. Under the New Jersey child custody laws, some grandparents may have a strong case for a court order establishing parenting time. Here’s how it works.
In New Jersey, when establishing custody and visitation rights (also known as parenting rights), the court will look at a range of factors, but will give priority to what it considers “the best interests of the child.” One of the principal factors, especially as it relates to grandparents, is the amount of time spent with the grandchild, as well as the quality, intimacy and nature of that relationship. If the children lived with grandparents, courts are inclined to perpetuate that arrangement, as it promotes stability and security for the child. If the grandparents saw their grandchildren a couple times a year, it’s unlikely that they will be afforded any visitation or parenting rights by the court.
The New Jersey Grandparent Visitation Law
Enacted in 1972, the New Jersey Grandparent Visitation law initially gave visitation rights only if a parent died. The statute has been revised twice and now allows grandparents visitation, even if the “nuclear family” remains in place, based on the court’s assessment of the following:
- The relationship between the grandparent and the child
- The relationship between the grandparent and the child’s parents (or whomever the child is currently living)
- The elapsed time since the last contact by the grandparent with the child
- The impact that a grant of visitation to the grandparent will have on the relationship between child and parent or child and legal guardian
- The time-sharing arrangement between the child’s divorced parents
- The good faith of the grandparent
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse by the grandparent
- Any other factor deemed to be in the best interests of the child
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