Under what conditions will a judge grant a request for parenting time with – or even custody of a grandchild?
Heidi Ann Lepp’s Answer:
In New Jersey, grandparents’ rights to visitation with their grandchildren are governed by a statute: N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1. In 2003, the Supreme Court of New Jersey established a procedure to be followed in every case where a grandparent is denied visitation with the grandchild. First, the grandparent must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that visitation is necessary to avoid harm to the child. If the grandparent meets this burden, then the parent must propose a visitation schedule. If the grandparent does not accept the proposed schedule, then the Court will determine whether the schedule is in the child’s best interests based upon the statutory factors. If visitation is not denied outright, but the grandparents object to the sufficiency of the proposed schedule, the grandparent must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed schedule is inadequate to avoid harm to the child. If the grandparent meets this burden, the Court will then be required to develop a schedule that is in the child’s best interest based upon the statutory factors. It has become more difficult for even involved grandparents to compel visitation with their grandchildren when the biological parents oppose it.