NJ Grandparent’s Visitation Rights – A Closer Look
- November 19, 2013
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In a previous blog post we explored the New Jersey state statute that governs grandparent’s visitation rights, N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1, upon a close look it may not be as easy for a grandparent to be granted visitation as it may initially seem. As previously stated, there is a New Jersey statute that provides that grandparents be awarded visitation with their grandchildren upon a court’s analysis of a set of factors. It should be noted, that despite the statute, grandparents are rarely given liberal visitation with their grandchildren and only under unusual circumstances are such rights honored. Ultimately, a grandparent or grandparents will have to prove to a court that their grandchildren will be harmed if visitation with them is not granted. Further, the harm that the grandchildren would have to suffer is one that is more substantial than the harm that would qualify under New Jersey law that would provide visitation rights for others such as parents. Therefore, the legal threshold that a grandparent must meet in order to be given visitation rights is quite high and is rarely met. For instance, if a child would suffer significant psychological or emotional harm as a result of not having contact with his or her grandparent, then perhaps the harm would qualify as severe enough to warrant court ordered visitation. Proving significant psychological harm is not as easy as one might think at first blush. A grandparent seeking court ordered visitation would need to retain a mental health expert to conduct evaluations and bonding assessments and then conclude that substantial psychological harm would result if that grandparent were not awarded visitation rights. In addition, even if an expert recommends grandparent visitation, the inquiry does not end there. Next, the totality of the circumstances would be evaluated by the court who would apply a set of statutory factors to the facts of the case to determine if ordering grandparent visitation is within the child’s best interests. It is so difficult to get a New Jersey court to award a grandparent with visitation rights because under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a parent has a fundamental right to raise his or her child in almost any manner that they wish. Therefore, in order to protect this strong Constitutional right, a court will only award grandparents with similar rights if doing so would be to avoid significant harm to the child. If you are interested in seeking grandparent’s visitation rights it is strongly advised that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney. For more information about grandparent’s rights, custody & visitation, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com and NJCivilUnionLaw.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.