Grandparent Visitation and Child Custody

Grandparent Visitation and Child Custody

Grandparent Visitation & Child Custody Attorneys in Bergen County NJ

Representing Grandparents’ Rights to Child's Visitation in New Jersey

A grandparent can serve as an incredibly important figure in a child’s life, but this relationship may become increasingly complicated in the event of divorce, separation, death, or child custody issues. Grandparents in New Jersey have limited rights with regard to visitation if one or both of their grandchild’s parents attempt to prevent the child from interacting with them. In other cases, grandparents can serve as viable guardians of their grandchildren if the parents are deemed incapable. If you are a grandparent seeking visitation with or custody of your grandchild, or you are a parent who is currently dealing with a grandparent-related issue that will affect your child, it is essential to understand your rights and the legal options that may be available to you. A knowledgeable family law attorney can provide you with a thorough understanding of your potential options and advocate for your interests through these complex legal matters.

The skilled attorneys at Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark specialize entirely in divorce and family law as a means by which to integrate and respond to the ever-evolving body of case law in this multi-faceted practice area. With over 75 years of combined experience in this area of practice, we have developed a repository of knowledge and resources which we use every day to provide unparalleled representation. In fact, we recently achieved a significant victory before the New Jersey Supreme Court regarding Grandparents’ Visitation. The case not only restored a bond between two grandparents and their granddaughter but also established procedural guidelines for the courts to use going forward, thus clarifying the law in this area and setting the stage for future Grandparents’ Rights cases in New Jersey. This case, and the many others like it, illustrates our tireless dedication to our clients, refusing to waver in the face of adversity as we seek a successful resolution on your behalf. For additional information, contact our firm today. We are available anytime to provide you with a free consultation.

Grandparents’ Rights to Visitation in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Grandparents’ Visitation Statute (N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1) was first enacted in 1972 and has since seen several amendments as the case law in this area continues to evolve over time. In its current version, grandparents in New Jersey are provided with limited rights regarding visitation if circumstances such as death, divorce, separation, or parental interference prevent them from interacting with their grandchildren. If you are seeking visitation with your grandchildren, you must file a formal motion with the court requesting as much. The court will then consider the following factors before determining if visitation is an appropriate and beneficial solution for the child involved:

  • The existing relationship between the child and the grandparent;
  • Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent;
  • The amount of time that has passed since the child last saw the grandparent and the reasons for any lapse in contact;
  • The existing relationship between the parents and the grandparent;
  • The effect the visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents;
  • If the parents are divorced or separated, the time-sharing arrangement between the parents with regard to the child;
  • If the application is brought by a relative of a deceased parent, the time-sharing arrangement previously established with the deceased parent and the extent of contact previously enjoyed with the relative during the time the child was in the custody of the deceased parent;
  • The good faith of the grandparent in filing the application; and
  • Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.

Notably, the law dictates that it shall be presumed that visitation is in the best interest of the child if the grandparent had formerly served as a full-time or frequent caregiver for the child. However, the court considers a parent’s right to determine what is in their child’s best interest a very serious and sacred right. As such, overcoming the burden of proof required for visitation has become increasingly difficult. In 2003, the New Jersey Supreme Court further expanded this burden in the landmark case of Moriarty v. Bradt. As a result of this ruling, a grandparent must provide sufficient evidence to support the fact that denying visitation would be detrimental to the child’s well-being. Obviously, this can be a taxing proposition for a grandparent who is unfamiliar with the nuances of the law. It can be similarly trying for parents who are attempting to make the best decisions for their children, which is why a legal professional can be extremely beneficial to those on both sides of these matters.

Grandparent Guardianship and Child Custody in New Jersey

If a parent dies or a child is removed from the custody of his or her parents, a grandparent may seek guardianship or some form of child custody, depending on the circumstances of the specific case. Aside from death, there are a number of reasons that may provide cause for the state to remove a child from his or her parents’ care, including:

  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Incarceration
  • Medical condition
  • Incapacitation
  • Economic limitation
  • Abandonment

The aforementioned causes and many others may compel you to act as a concerned and loving grandparent who wants the best for your grandchild. If so, there are a variety of potential legal avenues to consider, each of which you should fully understand before proceeding.

NJ Grandparents’ Custody and Visitation Lawyers

Our attorneys are well-versed in New Jersey law regarding child custody, placement, and protection. In fact, one of our partners, Laurie L. Newmark, serves on behalf of the state as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children in New Jersey. She also represents parents in actions involving the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). With extensive experience in this area of the law, we can ensure that you make informed decisions for the future of you and the grandchildren you love. If you are seeking visitation, guardianship, or custody of your grandchild, and are unsure if you have grounds to do so, contact our firm today to schedule a consultation.

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