In New Jersey, grandparents can petition for visitation or custody of their grandchildren. Grandparents often seek court-ordered visitation when their children refuse to forbid them from visiting or raising their grandchildren. However, the process is complex as the courts presume that fit parents understand their children’s best interests and have valid reasons for refusing visitation.
How Can I Seek Visitation With My Grandchildren?
In visitation requests, grandparents have the burden of proving visitation is in the grandchildren’s best interests by “a preponderance of the evidence,” meaning a sufficient demonstration of evidence in favor of visitation. Evidence the court may consider includes:
- One or both parents are deceased.
- Children’s home life changes during or after divorce.
- One or both parents are unfit due to child neglect, alcohol or drug abuse, or severe physical or mental health condition.
- Expert testimony regarding the child’s psychological distress without grandparent contact.
- An open child protective services case against the parents requiring child placement.
- Both parents are incarcerated.
- Grandparents are named guardians in parents’ wills.
- Children have resided with their grandparents.
- Children want to live with their grandparents if age-applicable to self-request.
- Both parents agree that the children should reside with grandparents.
Additionally, grandparents must also demonstrate that time spent with grandchildren is in their best interests based on evidence, which may include:
- Reasons for requesting visits.
- Relationship with the children.
- Relationship with the children’s parents.
- Amount of time since the last contact with children.
- Impact on the children’s relationship with the parents if visitation is granted.
- Parents’ visitation arrangement if divorced.
- History of children’s physical or sexual abuse by parents.
- Any other relevant factors.
Be prepared that the court will consider the parents’ objections when determining the grandparents’ motives for visitation. In cases where grandparents previously served as full-time caretakers for the children, the court may recognize that the proposed visitation is in the children’s best interest and is considered sufficient evidence. The courts also tend to favor grandparents in issues regarding visitation.
What Should I Do if the Parents Continue to Refuse Visitation?
If granted, the order permits grandparents’ visitation or custody rights, and parents are expected to comply. In New Jersey, if the parents continue to refuse visits with children, grandparents can request a court order to compel visitation by filing a contempt, enforcement, or violation petition with the court.
Once filed, the parents will be served and expected to appear in court for a hearing to settle the matter, mediate an agreement, or proceed to trial. New Jersey courts are encouraging mediation to resolve visitation with increasing frequency.
If the court rules that the grandparents’ rights have been violated, the parents can face severe consequences for violating a court order, including fines and jail time. Parents who take drastic measures to avoid complying, such as relocating or continually violating court orders, can be charged criminally and face more severe consequences, including losing custody rights altogether.
Working with a New Jersey family law lawyer experienced in grandparent visitation and custody cases is essential when planning to bring an enforcement action. Due to the complexities of these cases, hiring an experienced lawyer is crucial rather than attempting to represent yourself in these matters. Those without legal representation often lose in court.
Do I Have Visitation Rights if My Grandchildren Were Adopted?
One common scenario for seeking grandparent visitation is when the children are not in the custody of either parent for various reasons. In New Jersey, grandparents can still seek visitation rights if the grandchildren are in the custody of a non-parent by a court order, which requires the same standards of proof as petitioning for children still in the parent’s custody.
However, obtaining visitation can be more challenging if children are adopted by anyone other than a stepparent. Adoption by a non-relative severs all legal rights of the children’s biological relatives, including grandparents. However, the courts may consider awarding visitation if the biological grandparents demonstrate that visitation serves the children’s best interests and benefits their health, safety, and welfare.
New Jersey Family Law Lawyers at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC Help Grandparents Seeking Visitation With Their Grandchildren
Grandparents play an essential role in children’s lives. If your grandchildren’s parents have forbidden you to see your grandchildren, you have rights in New Jersey. Our experienced New Jersey family law lawyers at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC can help. Call us at 732-494-6099 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Metuchen, New Jersey, we serve clients in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Somerset County.