New Jersey’s Grandparent Visitation Statute
In New Jersey, grandparents who reside in the state can petition for visitation or custody, even over the objection of the child’s parents. The process is not easy. Grandparents must petition the court for visitation and must demonstrate that visitation will be in the best interests of the child. However, proof of the child’s best interests at a level of “better to grant visitation or custody than not” will not suffice. Because courts presume that otherwise fit parents know what is in the best interests of their children, the grandparents must essentially prove that the child will be harmed if visitation is denied.
The court will consider eight factors in weighing whether to grant visitation, including:
- The grandparents’ relationship with the child
- The grandparents’ relationship with the parents
- The time that has elapsed since the child last visited with the grandparents
- The effect on the relationship between the child and grandparent visitation would have
- The good faith of the grandparent petitioning
- If the parents are divorced, the custody arrangement
- Any history of abuse or neglect by the parents
- Other factors relevant to the best interests of the child
Courts will entertain testimony from friends and other family members and will consider matters such as whether the children are coping with a divorce or the death of a parent and would benefit from grandparent visitation.
In addition to establishing the right to visitation, grandparents can also petition for custody in certain specific circumstances. Grandparents may acquire custody when the following occurs:
- Death of the parents
- Criminal behavior or conviction by parents
- Drug or alcohol abuse by the parents
- A legal declaration that the parents are unfit
Essentially, if the county or state on its own, or via a petition of the grandparents, declares the child’s parents legally unfit, then the court will take custody away from the parents. In such a situation, other close relatives such as grandparents have the opportunity to request custody.
Get Help With New Jersey Child Custody Matters
If you are facing child custody issues in New Jersey or if you are gearing up for a divorce, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.