Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in New Jersey?

When parents choose to separate, it is often a difficult decision that greatly affects not only the adults but also the children involved. All of the changes that will need to be made may prove to be traumatic, particularly for younger children. Still, it is important for parents to be mindful of their children’s feelings and concerns — all while trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible.

In some households, grandparents play a major role in a child’s upbringing. But what happens to that relationship when the parents decide to divorce, separate or otherwise leave the home and family? Should the grandparents still be allowed to spend time with the child? Many would answer “yes” to that question.

However, Camden County family attorneys want you to understand the realities of the situation and how New Jersey law may be applied under certain circumstances.

The Rights of Grandparents
There are many times when attorneys who practice in the area of family law hear sad, but not uncommon, stories of how grandparents have been “cut off” from seeing or interacting with their grandkids after the parents divorce or breakup.

From an emotional standpoint, it may seem completely unfair and wrong; however, there are a number of factors that must be considered when looking at a grandparent’s right to visitation. Contact one of our skilled family attorneys to learn more about those factors in relation to your specific set of circumstances.

Initially, an assessment would need to be done with respect to the level of involvement the grandparents had in the child’s life. Those who have been heavily involved tend to have a stronger case when asking for visitation, while those who only see their grandchildren a few times a year may have a weaker case.

The Law
New Jersey has what is known as the Grandparent Visitation Statute (N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1), which was originally enacted to provide grandparents with a legal right to visitation — but only if one of the parents died. However, the law was later amended to allow grandparents the legal right to see their grandchildren if the children’s parents divorced or separated, regardless of whether or not a court ordered it.

Nevertheless, grandparents still felt slighted with respect to being granted the rights to which they thought they were entitled, so in 1993, the statute was amended a third time to reflect the change in times and provide grandparents with a right to visitation and/or custody, even if the child’s parental situation was still intact.

Today, the latest version of the statute clearly notes eight factors that must be considered when a judge determines whether or not the grandparents should be granted such rights.

In the world we live in today, there are times when grandparents are more like second parents to the children, and even though grandparents did not have many legal rights historically, things have changed in that regard. Still, when it comes down to it, the judge’s main focus in such situations will always be to make determinations that are in the best interests of the child or children involved.