In many families, grandparents are an integral part of their grandchildren’s lives. In addition to the loving family relationship, many grandparents also provide financial support, offer childcare, and play other roles in the family’s day-to-day life. These relationships can be a source of joy and support for the adults and children in the family.
When the relationships between the adults in the family become strained, however, it can impact the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. When parents separate or divorce, they may also sever ties with extended family of the other parent. In these situations, the law may offer some help to grandparents who do not want their relationship with the children to be collateral damage in the parents’ divorce.
New Jersey has a statute that permits grandparents (and siblings) to file an action for visitation with their grandchild (or sibling) when it has been denied. The focus of the law is on what is in the best interests of the child – the primary concern of the court with all issues related to custody and parenting of children. While it may seem like common sense that having time with grandparents is good for children, the analysis under the law is far more complex because there are so many important considerations involved. When this kind of request is made to the court, the judge has to balance the rights of the grandparents, the best interests of the child, and the fundamental rights of the parents to determine how to raise their children. It is the grandparents who have to prove to the judge that he/she should overrule the parents’ decision to keep their children away from grandparents.
Because the legal aspects of this issue are so involved, it is critical for the grandparents and the parents in these situations to have experienced legal counsel to help guide them through the testimony and evidence to submit to the court. In addition to presenting the facts, attorneys need to make sophisticated legal arguments on behalf of their clients when faced with this sensitive issues.