The Interplay between the Bond of Grandparents and Grandchildren vs. Parent’s Constitutional Rights under New Jersey Law from our partners, Lyons & Associates, P.C.
The loving bond between grandparents and grandchildren is very unique and special. Commonly, it is a generous, kind and reciprocal relationship filled with happy and lasting memories. Some parents may often find that the grandparents spoil their children too much, or they may find that grandparents are more lax about rules and behaviors regarding the children and their upbringing. But what actually are grandparents’ rights to visit with their grandchildren? What happens in situations where a parent is either no longer fit to parent or they have passed on?
In New Jersey, grandparents visitation rights are governed by the following statute:
§ 9:2-7.1. Visitation rights for grandparents, siblings
a. A grandparent or any sibling of a child residing in this State may make application before the Superior Court, in accordance with the Rules of Court, for an order for visitation. It shall be the burden of the applicant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the granting of visitation is in the best interests of the child.
b. In making a determination on an application filed pursuant to this section, the court shall consider the following factors
- The relationship between the child and the applicant;
- The relationship between each of the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the applicant;
- The time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the applicant;
- The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing;
- If the parents are divorced or separated, the time sharing arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child;
- The good faith of the applicant in filing the application;
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the applicant; and
- Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
c. With regard to any application made pursuant to this section, it shall be prima facie evidence that visitation is in the child’s best interest if the applicant had, in the past, been a full-time caretaker for the child.
Basically, the statute enables courts to balance the right of the biological parents to raise their child free of interference or court intervention with the obligation of the state to protect a child’s best interest. In short, a fit parent and a grandparent are not on equal footing. Accordingly, before the parent’s right to raise their child is imposed upon, a grandparent making an application for visitation with the court must show by a preponderance of the evidence (meaning, it is more likely than not) that serious physical or psychological harm will come to the child if the application for visitation is denied. If the court determines the grandparent making the application fails to meet their burden, the application for visitation will be denied. If the court makes a finding that harm exists, the court will go forward to decide the issue of visitation with the best interests of the child being the foremost priority.
At Lyons & Associates, we understand the significant emotional toll that these cases inherently bring. We have the extensive legal experience and ability to represent either side in these types of matters.
This article was sponsored by Lyons & Associates, P.C..