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New Jersey Grandparent Visitation Rights
What is the law regarding grandparent visitation in New Jersey?

New Jersey‚ Grandparent's Visitation State, N.J.S.A. 9:27.1 allows a grandparent residing in New Jersey to make an application for visitation. The grandparent must prove that visitation is in the best interest of the child. In making this determination, the court must consider eight factors, including:

  • The relationship between the child and the grandparent;
  • The relationship between parents and the grandparents;
  • The time that has elapses since the child last saw the grandparent;
  • The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child's parents;
  • If the parents are divorced or separated, the time sharing arrangements which exist between the parents with regard to the child;
  • The good faith of the grandparent filing the application;
  • Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the application; and
  • Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.

The starting point for any grandparent visitation case is whether it will serve the best interests of the child. Courts carefully consider the length of the relationship and the frequency of actual contact as primary evidence that the relationship should be preserved. Finally, the court will look at the totality of the circumstances‚ when it rules on any grandparent visitation application.

How can I enforce my rights to have visitations with my grandchildren?

A grandparent has to file an application with the county court house and request visitation with their grandchildren. The complaint will then be served on the parent(s). Thereafter, the court will set the case down for a case management conference. At this court hearing, the judge will make a sincere attempt to try to mediate a settlement. The judge may also refer the case to mediation. Mediation is the hot new trend in grandparent visitation cases. Mediation is an excellent way to resolve bitter grandparent visitation disputes. The court may also set the case down for a plenary hearing. At the hearing, both parties will be permitted to present evidence that either supports grandparent visitations, or submit evidence that proves that grandparent visitation would not be in the child's best interest.

If the case is sent to mediation, then the case will be heard in approximately 30 to 60 days. The mediator is usually a member of the Probation Department. Lawyers usually are not permitted to attend the mediation session. If the mediation is not successful, then the case will be sent back to the family court for a disposition.

What are the arguments for grandparent's rights?

  • Grandparents may provide a stabilizing role in their grandchildren's lives, particularly after a divorce or crisis (such as the death of a parent).
  • Where grandparents have been involved n a child's life, it can be traumatic to the child to suddenly be denied access.
  • The mere fact that parents are divorced, or the grandparent's child dies or is incarcerated, should not automatically serve to grant the custodial parent the right to sever a positive relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.

What are the arguments against grandparent's rights?

  • The state has no business interfering with the child-rearing decisions of competent parents, even if the parent determines that grandparent visitation will not be permitted.
  • Some grandparents are excluded from their grandchildren's lives for good cause - for example, because they were abusive to their own children and cannot be trusted with the grandchildren. Some grandparents interfere with ordinary parental decision-making, or bad moth one or both parents to the grandchildren, and create unnecessary aggravation.
  • If a conflict exists between the parents and the grandparents, any court interference could destabilize the home environment for the children.

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