When it comes to things like child support, custody, and visitation, most people tend to think only of the rights of that child’s parents. Typically, the rights of other loved ones in that child’s life are not very well-known generally because the concept that grandparents—and others with significant relations to the child such as siblings—should have the right to contact and visit that child has only been established in the last two decades.
The need for legal action in establishing visitation rights of grandparents arises when the child’s parents decide to cut ties with the grandparents or when the child is adopted. The issue was taken to the United States Supreme Court in 2000 when a child’s grandparents plead for visitation after the parent severed relations with them. In this case, the decision favored the child’s parents. After this, states were encouraged to revisit and revamp their laws regarding nonparental visitation rights. Over the years, New Jersey decided that grandparents have standing to seek visitation with a child by filing a petition with the court.
In order for a grandparent to be awarded visitation rights in New Jersey, he or she must prove that a lack of contact would result in harm to the child and that the granting of visitation rights would be in the best interest of the child. To make such a determination, the court considers the following:
- The nature and quality of the relationship between the child and the grandparent
- The relationship the grandparent has with each of the child’s parents or the person with which the child is currently residing
- The amount of time that has passed since last contact between the child and the grandparent and the reasons for any lack of contact
- The effect the visitation may potentially have on the relationship between the child and his or her parent/guardian
- The grandparent’s intentions in filing the application
- The custody arrangement that currently exists between divorced or separated parents
- Any documented history of abuse or neglect of any child by the grandparent
- Any other factor that may affect the best interests of the child
While the state recognizes that it is naturally the right of the child’s parent to decide who may and may not visit the child, it is possible for grandparents to obtain visitation rights so long as it can be proved that visitation is necessary to avoid harm done to the child. Once this is established, a visitation schedule will be ordered and set by the court.