Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights in New Jersey?

Learn about grandparents’ rights to court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren after life-altering changes in the family structure.

If you're concerned about a parent limiting your time with your grandchild after a divorce, separation, or the other parent's death, you may be able to request court-ordered time from a local family court. This article explains when and how grandparents can request reasonable visitation with their grandchildren in New Jersey.

Do I have a legal right to grandparent visitation?

In New Jersey, grandparents have a legal right to request reasonable visitation with their grandchildren at any time, including after one parent's death, or before, during or after the parents' divorce or separation.

What must I prove in court?

First, you have the "burden of proof" (duty to provide sufficient evidence) to prove that the child would be harmed if your visitation request was denied. Judges will consider any relevant evidence to determine whether the child will be harmed without the court-ordered time, including but not limited to:

  • one parent's death
  • life-altering changes in the child's home during or after the parents' divorce or separation
  • an established grandparent-grandchild relationship, and
  • expert testimony that the child would suffer specific psychological harm.

Next, you must demonstrate that spending time with you is in your grandchild's best interest based on any relevant evidence, including but not limited to:

  • your relationship with the child
  • your relationship with the child's parents
  • the length of time since the child has had contact with you
  • the potential impact on the child's relationship with his or her parent(s) if the proposed time is granted
  • the parents' visitation arrangement (if they are divorced)
  • your reasons for requesting visits
  • any history of sexual or physical abuse by you or the child's parent(s), and
  • any other factor that is relevant to the child's best interests.

If you have previously served as the child's full-time caretaker, the court will treat as evidence that your proposed visits are in the child's best interest.

Do I have rights after my grandchild is adopted?

An adoption by anyone other than a stepparent transfers all legal rights from a child's biological parents and relatives to the adoptive parents and family. However, the court will consider awarding visitation to a biological grandparent after a child's adoption if it determines that the proposed time serves the child's best interests, considering his or her health, safety, and general welfare.

How do I get custody of my grandchild?

Anyone can ask the court for custody by proving the natural or legal parents are unfit because they are unable to provide the child with a safe and supportive living environment. Once you show the child's parents are unfit, you must demonstrate that living with you would be in the child's best interests, considering the child's health, safety, and general welfare.

How do I start the process?

First, you will need to file a "petition," (formal written request) in the county court where the child lives or in the court making custody and visitation orders regarding your grandchild. In your petition, you will describe your existing relationship—or efforts to establish one—with the child and your proposed schedule for court-ordered time. If you already have a visitation order, but you want more time or the child's parent is preventing you from visiting, you can ask the court to "modify" (change) it, or enforce the order.

Once you file your request, you must give notice to all living parents. Before scheduling a hearing, the court must encourage you to attempt to reach an agreement with the child's parent(s) by participating in mediation.

If you have questions about your right to spend time with your grandchild, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.

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