New Jersey law allows a grandparent or sibling of a child to petition the Court for a visitation order. While grandparent or sibling visitation generally becomes an issue after the death of a parent or during a divorce or separation, New Jersey does not require that the parents be deceased or divorced before a grandparent or sibling requests visitation.
However, because the grandparent visitation statute may infringe upon a parent’s right to raise their children as they see fit, the New Jersey Supreme Court requires a petitioner to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the child will be harmed if the visitation is not allowed.
The type of harm must be substantial and significant and recognized by New Jersey case law as justifying state intervention in the parent-child relationship. A long-standing, close relationship, between the petitioner and the child is necessary in proving that harm may come to the child if visitation is denied.
A direct, personal relationship with the child creates a presumption that the best interests of the child are served by maintaining contact and communication.
Once a petitioner has established that harm may result if visitation were denied, the Court will grant the petition and issue a visitation order if visitation is found to be in the best interests of the child. If the petitioner has been a full time caregiver for the child, the Court will consider this prima facia evidence that visitation is in the child’s best interest. In making a determination the Court will consider, but is not limited to, the following factors:
(1) The relationship between the petitioner and the child;
(2) The relationship between each of the child”s parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the petitioner;
(3) The length of time since the child last had contact with the petitioner;
(4) The effect that the requested visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child”s parents or the person with whom the child is residing;
(5) If the parents are divorced or separated, the time-sharing arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child;
(6) The good faith of the petitioner in filing the petition;
(7) Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the petitioner; and
(8) Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.
The issue of grandparent and sibling visitation in New Jersey is fact sensitive. Each case is unique and the Courts attempt to balance a parent’s right to raise their child with the important role that a loving grandparent or sibling can play in a child’s life.
Daniels v. Daniels, 885 A.2d 524, (N.J. Super.2005)
New Jersey Div. Youth & Family Services v. E.D., 558 A.2d 1377, (N.J. Super. 1989)
Moriarty v. Bradt, 827 A.2d 203, (N.J. 2003)
LexisNexis N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1