Family law courts are often the site of some of the most emotional legal decisions. Issues such as divorce, child support and child custody can tear at the heart of any family. Often overlooked in this sea of emotion are grand-parents. Grandparents’ visitation rights often fall as secondary considerations if they are considered at all. However, this can be a grave tragedy as many grand-parents have very close and loving relationships with their grandchildren. Disrupting or eliminating this often intimate relationship can cause emotional harm to both the grand-parent as well as the grand-children.
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our family law attorneys have a thorough understanding of the process that grandparents and siblings need to go through to gain visitation rights in New Jersey, and have aided many loving grandparents to maintain a loving relationship with their grandchildren in communities across Bergen County, including Hackensack, Paramus, Ridgewood, Teaneck, and Fort Lee. Our attorneys are well equipped to help you with the many legal ins and outs of securing your visitation rights in a compassionate, knowledgeable, and effective manner. Get in touch with our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your unique needs and concerns. Contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.
What Are My Rights to Visitation as a Grandparent in Bergen County?
The Grandparents’ Visitation Statute (N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1.) in New Jersey permits grandparents or siblings of a child who lives in New Jersey to present an application for visitation. However, it is the responsibility of the applicant to prove that the visitation is in the best interest of the child. The statute applies to families that remain together, in addition to those where separation, death, or divorce have caused a split in the family. The court will traditionally consider eight factors:
- A relationship between the child and the applicant
- The relationship between each of the child’s parents or guardian and the applicant
- The time which has passed since the child last had contact with the applicant
- The effect that such visitation could have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents or guardian
- If the parents are divorced or separated, the existing time-sharing arrangement
- The “good faith” of the applicant in filing the application
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect on the part of the applicant
- All other factors relevant to the best interests of the child
What if my Grandchild’s Parent Contests my Visitation Rights?
In the case of Slawinski v. Nicholas, 448 N.J. Super. 25 (App. Div. 2016), a mother was seeking to end the visitation rights of the child’s grandparents. In this case, a motion had been brought by the mother to terminate the visitation rights of the fraternal grandparents on the grounds that the relationship was not working, inconvenient and that children were being harmed by the visits. However, the Court rejected the mother’s argument and stated: “We recognize that a parent’s fundamental right to raise a child as he or she sees fit encompasses the authority to determine visitation by third parties, including grandparents. Furthermore, the Appellate Division stated that a parent could not unilaterally modify the consent order granting rights of grandparent visitation.
The grandparents successfully argued that the child would be “harmed” by eliminating the obvious and loving relationship it had with their grandparents. It is important to note that proof of harm involves a greater amount of evidence than simply the best interests of the child. The case also found that a dispute between a “fit custodial parent and the child’s grandparent is not a contest between equals and thus the burden of proof should fall on the grandparents to prove that ending the relationship will cause harm to the child. For this reason, it is critical to have a skilled and experienced attorney as your advocate when seeking grandparent visitation rights.
Contact our experienced Ridgewood Grandparent’s Visitation Rights Attorneys for a Free Consultation
With more than 75 years of combined legal experience representing clients in all types of family law issues, including grandparent visitation, Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark has built a reputation for success and effective and attentive legal service with families across New Jersey and Bergen County, including Ridgewood, Hackensack, Paramus, Teaneck, and Fort Lee.
Speak with our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your unique needs and concerns when it comes to gaining your rights to visitation as a grandparent. Please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.