Grandparent Visitation

Children of divorce are sometimes caught in the thorny legal thicket of “grandparent visitation.” No one wants to deny a child the benefits of having a good relationship with their grandparents. However, the situation is made more complicated by the right of a parent to raise their child or children as he or she sees fit, and one of those rights may include which may include limiting or prohibiting grandparent visitation.

New Jersey courts approach such cases with strong deference to the parent—in layman’s terms, this means that there is no level playing field between parents and grandparents from the courts’ perspectives. In fact, in order to succeed over an objection of a child’s custodial parent, a grandparent must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the grandchild or grandchildren would suffer particularized harm in the absence of such visitation. Thus, grandparents must first make “a clear and specific allegation of concrete harm… significant enough to justify State intervention in the parent-child relationship” whereas “mere general and conclusory allegations of harm are insufficient.”

This heightened legal requirement is intended “to avoid imposing an unnecessary and unconstitutional burden on fit parents who are exercising their judgment concerning the raising of their children;” see Moriarty v. Brandt, which was decided by the N.J Supreme Court in 2003, and Daniels v. Daniels, an Appellate Division decision in 2005.

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