Know your rights as a grandparent regarding visitation and custody in NJ
Grandchildren are often the highlight of their grandparents’ later years.
But what happens if you are unable to maintain a relationship with your grandchild?
Or if you see your grandchild in an unsafe home environment?
Do grandparents have any rights regarding visitation and custody in NJ?
Yes, New Jersey law does protect your rights as a grandparent. This includes a legal right to request visitation at any time, including during a period of estrangement between grandparent and one or both parents; after the death of one parent; or before, during or after the parents’ separation or divorce.
Under certain circumstances, a grandparent may be able to gain full custody of a grandchild.
Take steps today to secure your visitation rights
In most cases, as long as the parent or parents are considered fit, NJ law allows the parent to determine the relationship between grandchild and grandparent. However, if disruption of the relationship between the grandchild and grandparent would harm the grandchild, you may have a chance at securing visitation through the court system.
The first step in gaining a legal right to visitation with your grandchild is to speak with a lawyer who has experience in grandparent rights in NJ. They will file a petition with the court seeking visitation. The court considers the following factors in determining whether to grant visitation rights to a grandparent:
- The relationship between the grandparent and grandchild
- The relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild’s parents or primary caregiver
- The amount of time since the grandchild and grandparent last had contact
- The effect visitation will have on the grandchild’s relationship with their parents or caregiver
- Any existing time-sharing arrangement between the child’s parents, if the parents are divorced or separated
- Any history of neglect or of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by the grandparent
- Anything else the court deems relevant to the best interests
The court has a certain amount of latitude in considering these factors. Above all, in order to gain visitation, you must prove that your grandchild will be harmed without grandparent visitation. A skilled attorney will build a case that proves there are legal grounds for the request by:
- Helping you document your relationship with your grandchild and the significance of that relationship in your grandchild’s life
- Using expert witnesses to demonstrate the harm that can occur to your grandchild without visitation
How grandparents can gain full custody
Gaining full custody of a grandchild is rarely easy – but it is possible. The courts often favor keeping children with their parents, but as with any custody case, the child’s well-being is the primary consideration in determining custody. In order to gain full custody of your grandchild, you must prove one of the following:
- Parental Unfitness
- Child abuse
In seeking custody, you must also demonstrate that you are willing and able to care for your grandchild and can provide a safer home environment than the child’s parent or parents.