The impact of divorce can cause a ripple effect with those closest to the separating spouses feeling the effects in a variety of ways. For children, divorce can bring life changes from adding a second home to changing schools and learning a new schedule. For grandparents, uncertainty reigns as they ponder the roles they will play in their grandchildren’s lives.
There are many benefits to children having ongoing relationships with extended family, including maternal and paternal grandparents. When contact between children and their grandparents becomes a dispute between divorcing parents, court intervention may be required. In these situations, the court as to balance the pivotal role of grandparents against the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions for their children, focusing on what is in the children’s best interests.
Options for non-parents
Every state in the U.S. has some form of visitation statute for “non-parents.” Only a few states, however, have enforceable laws allowing grandparent visitation. Although New Jersey is not one of the few, grandparents in New Jersey can still make an application to the court seeking time with their grandchildren when one or both parents try to prohibit it. The court must then consider a number of factors to determine whether the children will be harmed if prevented from having an ongoing relationship with their grandparents. This analysis is done on a case-by-case basis, meaning the court must look at the unique circumstances of each case to make a determination. In some situations, it may even be necessary to involve a forensic psychologist or other custody expert to aid the court in understanding the nature of the family’s situation.
All aspects of divorce combine legal complexities with emotionally-charged issues. When a grandparent or other third party is asking the court to override the decision of one or both parents as to their children, the law protecting the parents’ rights is grounded in the Constitution. This creates a complex legal environment that calls for experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel. For grandparents who likely had little say in what happened in the divorce, maintaining the bonds they share with their grandchildren is often a prime focus. A skilled family law attorney may help preserve these strong family bonds.