GRANDPARENT VISITATION RIGHTS IN NEW JERSEY
Analysis of the rights grandparent have in NJ and how to get started.
How are grandparent rights determined by the courtThere is a presumption that as a fit parent he or she can decide how to parent his or her child. That includes who the child interacts with on a regular basis. NJ case law tells us that in order to overcome the presumption the grandparent seeking visitation must show that the child would be emotionally harmed if visitation is denied. If the grandparent can show significant emotional harm to the child then the presumption is vaulted and the Court shall conduct an analysis of the Grandparent Visitation Statute 9:2-7.1.
This includes analysis of eight factors. Namely,
• The relationship between the child and the applicant;
• The relationship between each of the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the applicant;
• The time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the applicant;
• The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing;
• If the parents are divorced or separated, the time-sharing arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child;
• The good faith of the applicant in filing the application;
• Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the applicant; and
• Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
what is the first stepA grandparent is required to file a complaint in the non-dissolution part of family court seeking visitation. He or she must present a prima facie showing of harm. This should include as many details as possible as it is fact specific. At a minimum the grandparents should set forth contact with and prior care for the child, why contact has changed and alleged nature of the claimed harm.
A court date is then fixed. If the court views the matter as complex it will be case managed and some discovery may be ordered. This may includes experts. This is to enable the grandparents to rebut the presumption of the parent and show significant emotional harm. Mediation may also be ordered as well.
If the court does not view the matter as complex, it may treat the case as a summary action. Meaning, if the grandparent cannot sustain his or her burden to make the required showing of harm the matter should be dismissed.
For complete analysis read the NJ Supreme Court case, Major v. Maguire, 224 NJ 1 (2016)