Securing Your Grandparent Visitation Rights
Few would argue that divorce is a traumatic and life-changing process for spouses and their children. However, the trauma is not only contained to the immediate family. The relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren can also be deeply affected when spouses separate. Grandparents’ rights and their ability to spend time with their grandchildren are often one of the unseen causalities of the ending of a marriage. Grandparent visitation issues can be complicated in any contentious divorce. As a grandparent, knowing the law and your rights can make all the difference toward maintaining a close and loving post-divorce relationship with your grandchildren.
If you feel that your visitation time with your grandchild or grandchildren is being blocked or unfairly restricted, please contact the experienced New Jersey family law attorneys at The Montanari Law Group. We have assisted clients in Passaic and Essex counties with all family law matters. From our offices in Woodland Park, we are proud to be a trusted legal resource for surrounding communities. If you have questions regarding any family law matter, contact us online or by phone today at (973) 233-4396 for a free consultation.
What Rights Do I Have For Visitation as a Grandparent? Passaic County Family Law Attorneys
New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1. allows grandparents or siblings of a child who lives in State to present an application for visitation. However, the burden falls on the applicant to prove that the visitation is in the best interest of the child. The statute not only applies to families that remain together but also those where death or divorce have caused family separation. The court will consider the following factors:
- The relationship between the child and the applicant
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect on the part of the applicant
- The relationship between the child’s parents or guardian and the applicant
- The amount of time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the applicant
- The effects that visitation may have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents or guardian
- The existing time-sharing agreement, in the event, that the parents are divorced or separated
- The “good faith” of the applicant in filing the application
- As well as all other factors relevant to the best interests of the child
What if My Grandchild’s Parent Contests my Visitation Rights?
The case of Slawinski v. Nicholas, 448 N.J. Super. 25 (App. Div. 2016), involved a parent who was seeking to end the visitation rights of their child’s grandparents. The parent brought a motion to end the visitation rights of the fraternal grandparents on the grounds that the relationship was “not working”, inconvenient and that the visits were causing harm to the children. To counter, the grandparents argued that the child would be harmed by eliminating the obviously close and loving relationship that the child had with its grandparents.
The parent’s argument was rejected by the court which stated: “We recognize that a parent’s fundamental right to raise a child as he or she sees fit encompasses the authority to determine visitation by third parties, including grandparents. The Appellate Division went on to state that a parent could not unilaterally modify the consent order granting rights of grandparent visitation. The standard of proof of harm involves a greater amount of evidence than simply the best interests of the child which is usually the standard in cases involving children.
Despite the grandparents retaining their visitation rights, the case also found that a dispute between a “fit custodial parent and the child’s grandparent is not a contest between equals and thus the burden of proof should fall on the grandparents to prove that ending the relationship will cause harm to the child. Thus as a grandparent attempting to secure or maintain visitation rights with your grandchildren, it is essential to retain an experienced and skilled family law attorney.
Contact a Woodland Park Family Law Attorney for Assistance
For many grandparents, time with their grandchildren is precious. If you feel that your visitation is being unfairly blocked or if wish to enter into or modify an existing grandparent visitation agreement, it is essential that you have an experienced and dedicated lawyer to let you know all of your options and protect your rights. The family law attorneys at The Montanari Law Group has decades of experience working with clients in Clifton, Wayne, Little Falls, Patterson, West Millford, Woodland Park and all over Passaic County. Contact our attorneys in Passaic County at (973) 233-4396 to speak with an experienced NJ family law attorney.