Many times, the role of grandparents in a custody battle is often overlooked by the struggles of both parents. However, in most cases, grandparents actually have the right to petition the court for visitation rights to the child. A majority of the time, when a family dissolves, the grandparents may still wish to see the children, in spite of what has happened. While some parents may not want this, New Jersey has adopted certain legislation that allows grandparents the rights to demand visitation as if they were parents, with some restrictions and rules. This situation can also arise from a death in the family, or separations that have not been finalized into divorces.
Visitation Rights For Grandparents
When a grandparent wishes to file for visitation rights, the must do so through the court. The court will render decisions using the standard of what is in "the best interest of the child," and the burden of proof for this rests upon the grandparents who are filing for visitation rights. Basically, the grandparents must prove that an active relationship with the child can be healthy and beneficial to the child's growth and development. In general, it is assumed that a child does have a right to grandparent interaction, though it must be proven in court. The courts in New Jersey will weigh in a total of eight factors when making a determination, these include:
- Relationship between the child and grandparent
- Time between the last contact with child and grandparent
- Any current custody arrangement with parents
- History of physical abuse or neglect from the grandparent
- Relationships between parent and grandparent
- The "good faith" of the grandparent petitioning the court
- The effect of the visitation on the child
- Any other particularly relevant factors, depending on circumstance
In addition to grandparents, other relatives can also sometimes seek access to the child, including the child's siblings. The most common case, however, is with grandparents being denied access to the child as a result of hostility between separated or divorced parents. Typically, this type of legal action comes as a result of tensions between parents and grandparents. In an effort to mitigate this, the court may opt to recommend mediation first as an initial attempt at a solution, but if the relationships between the two parties are already strained, this may not work. If this happens, the case must go to court. Based on the evidence and arguments presented and after weighing in all the above factors the court will make a decision. Remember that the burden of proof for "what is the in the best interest of the child" is on the grandparents. This can be much more easily overcome with the assistance of an experienced Family Law attorney.
Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney Today
If you or a loved one is currently engaged in a custody battle, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.