New Jersey courts recognize that grandparents usually have a role to play in the healthy development of their grandchildren. The rights of the grandparent are given consideration in some visitation deliberations, and if it is possible to include these individuals in the child’s life, then accommodations will often be made. Visitation is broadly considered to be in the best interests of the child and is therefore encouraged. There are even certain well-recognized circumstances under which the grandparents may even be considered for primary custody, such as the death of the custodial parent or parents.
The court recognizes that there are emotional, developmental and social benefits to a healthy relationship between children and their grandparents. If it can be shown that the child will not be negatively impacted by the circumstances, then the grandparents may seek court-ordered visitation arrangements or even child custody. This is most common when the child has been adopted or placed into foster care. It may also occur when the parent or parents have been died or been imprisoned.
However, the rights of the parent are generally presumed to supersede those of the grandparents. If grandparents were to wish to take custody away from a parent that they consider to be dangerous, negligent or unfit, then they must be prepared to go to court and prove their assertions.
As is the case when making custody and visitation decisions, courts will have as their primary consideration the best interests of the child. An attorney who is representing a grandparent seeking visitation can often use evidence of a preexisting and beneficial relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild in support of the client’s position.