By Snyder & Sarno on December 03, 2013
When there is a falling out between the grandparents and parents of a child, and the child’s parents no longer want the child to see their grandparents, many grandparents want to know what their rights are. Grandparents’ rights to visitation with grandchildren could be much more limited if a bill that was proposed to the New Jersey Legislature is passed. According to the New Jersey Law Journal, the bill was approved by the Senate on June 20 and by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on November 25.
Under the proposed legislation, a grandparent seeking visitation over the objection of the child’s parent or guardian will have to prove that denying the grandparent visitation with the child will harm the child. This must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a higher standard than the current law, which simply requires the grandparent to prove that visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interests.
The bill provides that, if the court finds that denying visitation will harm the child, then either the parties will agree to a visitation schedule or the court will create a schedule based on the best interests of the child following a list of nine factors. These factors include:
(1) The relationship between the grandparent and child, including whether the grandparent had ever been the child’s guardian, legal custodian, or caretaker;
(2) The relationship between the grandparent and parents;
(3) The amount of time that has passed since the grandparent and child last had contact;
(4) The effect that the visitation between the grandparent and child will have on the child’s relationship with his or her parents;
(5) The time sharing arrangement between the parents if they are divorced or separated;
(6) The grandparent’s good faith in filing for visitation;
(7) Any history of abuse or neglect by the grandparent;
(8) The child’s desire for visitation when the child is capable of articulating his or her desire; and
(9) Any other factor relevant to the child’s best interests.
Additionally, under the proposed legislation, if, in the past, the grandparent had been the full-time caretaker of the child, it will be prima facie evidence that it will harm the child if visitation is denied and that the visitation is in the child’s best interests.
Finally, the proposed legislation provides that, if one of the child’s parents is deceased or the parents are divorced and one of the parents is trying to prevent the grandparent’s visitation with the child, the grandparent can show that there is a close relationship between the grandparent and child and that the parents are refusing to allow the relationship, and this will be prima facie evidence that preventing visitation will harm the child.
We will continue to follow this grandparent visitation bill and will update you frequently on its status. If it passes, it will change the landscape of grandparent visitation in New Jersey.
If you have questions about your visitation rights, please contact the experienced attorneys at Snyder & Sarno at (973) 274-5200.
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