Grandparents have Visitation Rights Too
Many adults have fond memories of the role their grandparents played in their lives. However, sometimes parents make the decision to withhold grandparents from visitation with their children during their formative years. In some instances, parents may feel that Grandma or Grandpa poses a threat to their child’s physical or emotional state. In others, the determination may be made out of spite or some other concern.
New Jersey has a specific law that deals with the issue of grandparents and sibling visitation rights. It is clear that the person seeking visitation has the burden of proving by “a preponderance of the evidence that the granting of visitation is in the best interests of the child.” Quite simply, if you are a grandparent who has been denied visitation, it is up to you to show the court why it is in your grandchildren’s best interests to spend time with you.
The Grandparents and Sibling Visitation Statute outlines eight separate factors that are considered by the court when reviewing the issue of grandparents and visitation. These include the relationship the children had prior to their estrangement with their grandparents. The effect that the prospective visitation will have on the children and their parents is also important. The New Jersey courts refrain from awarding grandparents’ visitation rights if there is proof that the visits may actually harm the child. The prospective damage to the grandparents is not the compelling issue.
If a grandparent ever acted as the children’s primary caretaker, the courts may consider this as prima facie evidence that the grandparents are entitled to visitation. Of course, this can be disputed by the parents. There may even be proof provided suggesting that the child was mistreated while in the care of the grandparents. It is important for grandparents to show the court the nature of their relationship with their grandchildren prior to the denial of visitation.
In determining custody, the courts always use the children’s best interest as their barometer. However, the law also recognizes that it is up to parents to raise their children and make decisions regarding them. As it comes to parents who have been deemed fit, this may mean that they may be able to exclude grandparents from visitation.
Grandparents may have a special role in the life of their grandchildren. If you are a grandparent who has been denied visitation, contact our office to discuss the remedies available to you. Likewise, if you are a parent faced with an application for grandparents’ visitation, we can provide you with advise.