Can Grandparents Get Partial Custody or Visitation Rights?
New Jersey family law grants parents the legal right to make decisions related to the care and upbringing of their children. However, some circumstances make the custody or visitation of minor children complicated. Co-parenting disputes can disrupt a harmonious relationship between children and their grandparents.
However, courts often grant grandparents visitation and even custody rights in exceptional circumstances. The Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Goldblatt Esq explain the situations in which grandparents can be granted visitation and custody rights for grandchildren in East Brunswick, Freehold, and Wall, NJ.
Visitation Rights for Third Parties
New Jersey family law allows grandparents to request reasonable visitation rights for their grandchildren. However, for this right to be granted in contested cases, the grandparent must prove that the visitation is in the child's best interests and that the child would be harmed psychologically or physically if the visitation rights are denied. Some of the evidence that grandparents can use includes:
- Death of one parent
- Profound changes in a child's life after a divorce or separation
- An established relationship with the child
- Expert evidence that the child would suffer if the grandparent is denied family time
Apart from providing reasons for granting visits, the grandparents must demonstrate that the child will not be exposed to harm during their care.
Rights to Visit Adopted Children
Adoption transfers all the legal rights of the biological parents and relatives to the adoptive parent's family. However, New Jersey courts can award visitation rights to biological grandparents if it is in the child's best interests.
Third-Party Custody Law In New Jersey
When there is a custody battle between a fit parent and a third party, the court presumes that the fit parent is the best person to grant custody. However, the third party can contest this argument by demonstrating that this is an exceptional case.
In such circumstances, the court conducts a two-step test. First, the court must determine if exceptional circumstances make it reasonable to grant custody to the third party. For example, in Zack v. Fiebert, the court ruled that the third party can satisfy the exceptional circumstances requirement by showing that he or she has become the psychological parent to the child. Therefore, in special cases where the contesting parties pass the fitness test, the court will apply the best interests standard.
Thus, for grandparents to win partial or primary custody under the exceptional circumstances requirement, they must demonstrate:
- A parent-child relationship
- One or both of the child's parents consented to the custody
- The grandparent and the child live in the same home
- Assume significant responsibility for raising the child
- Must have assumed the parenting role for a prolonged period and formed a bond with the child
Courts Have Ruled in Favor of Grandparents in The Past
In J.F. v. R.M., the grandmother, Joan, had primary custody of the grandson, Scott, while the father, Robert, had parenting time. The father sought primary custody of the child, but both the trial and appellate courts denied his request on the ground that the grandmother had established an extraordinary parent-child relationship with the child. The court also found that it was in the child's best interests to grant Joan primary custody.
Contact Our Law Firm
If you are a grandparent seeking visitation rights or custody of a child, it is advisable to consult an experienced family attorney to assess your case and help you prepare a petition. Fill our contact form or call Jeffrey W. Goldblatt Esq. At (732) 238-8700 for assistance with your case.