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What Are Grandparents’ Rights in NJ?

Grandparents and grandchild throwing leaves in park and having fun together

In many families, grandparents are just as involved with raising their grandchildren as are the children’s immediate parents. However, the law gives parents significant discretion in choosing how to raise their children, including who can be afforded visitation. If you are a grandparent seeking to visit your grandkids but the parents refuse, what are your rights? Are there circumstances under which you can petition for primary custody? Continue reading to learn about grandparent rights in New Jersey. If you have questions or are dealing with a custody dispute, call a knowledgeable New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.

Grandparents Can Request Visitation

New Jersey law specifically addresses grandparents’ rights to seek visitation with their grandchildren. The law also applies to siblings. Grandparents have the right to seek visitation by petitioning a New Jersey family court.

Grandparents face an uphill battle when seeking visitation over the objection of the children’s parents or guardians. Although the language of the law suggests they must satisfy the typical “best interests of the child” test, U.S. Supreme Court precedent has raised the standard: Grandparents must show that refusing the grandparent visitation would harm the child.

The court will evaluate the child’s best interests and potential harm based on several factors, including:

  • The child’s relationship with the applicant
  • Death or divorce of the parents
  • The relationship between each of the child’s parents and the applicant
  • The amount of time that has passed since the grandparent was allowed visitation
  • The effect the visitation would have on the relationship between the child and parent
  • Any parenting time or visitation arrangement already in place between the parents
  • The good faith of the applicant
  • Any history of abuse or neglect by the applicant
  • Other factors relevant to the child’s best interests

If the grandparent has previously served as the child’s primary caretaker, that fact constitutes strong evidence in favor of granting visitation unless contrary evidence suggests visitation would not be in the child’s best interests.

Grandparent Custody

Any interested party, including a grandparent, can ask a New Jersey court for custody of children. They must first demonstrate that the legal parents are unfit to provide safety and support for the children. Once the interested party has demonstrated that the legal parents are unfit for continued custody of their children, the party must demonstrate that the child’s best interests would be served by awarding that party custody.

Get Seasoned Help With Your New Jersey Custody Matter

If you need experienced and effective legal help with grandchild custody, property division, divorce mediation, paternity, premarital agreements, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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