When a court finds that custodial parent are "unfit" to exercise custody over their children, N.J. law affords grandparents numerous options for stepping into the situation and helping their grandchildren--whether this is temporary physical and/or legal custody, or even adoption (for the most extreme cases).

That said, without a finding of parental unfitness, it is much harder for grandparents to exercise custody or visitation rights with their grandchildren.

This is especially so, since the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville 530 U.S. 57 (2000). Here, the Court severely limited grandparents' rights to have quality visitation time with their grandchildren, holding that court-ordered grandparent visitation time was improper when it infringed on the due process rights of parents.

That said, N.J. courts, pursuant to Moriarty v. Bradt, 177 N.J. 84 (2003), have created a two-step process for determining if and when grandparents could acquire court-ordered visitation with grandchildren.

Step One: Here, grandparents must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that grandparent visitation is necessary to avoid a particular, identifiable harm to the child. This is a crucial distinction. The courts' primary concern is whether the children will suffer emotional harm by not having the sort of strong emotional relationship that is maintained, and reinforced, through routine visitation. This situation usually comes about when grandparents raise grandchildren for an extended of time (often, because the parents have been found as "unfit" in a court of law), only to see the biological parents' custody rights restored. When this happens, and the children no longer reside with the grandparents whom they had been living with for many months, if not years, the courts try to minimize any trauma or separation anxiety experienced by children after they are reunited with their parents.

Step Two: If the grandparents can prove that a lack of visitation will cause harm to the child, then the parents will be compelled by the court to provide the grandparents with a "visitation schedule," that outlines the days and times that the grandparents can visit with the children.

However, if the grandparents oppose this schedule, the grandparents must then prove to the court that the schedule is inadequate to preventthe children from suffering emotional harm. If this is proven by a preponderance of the evidence, then the Court will create its own grandparent visitation schedule.

It is important to note that grandparents must have legitimate, concrete arguments about provable, identifiable harm that their grandchildren will suffer, due to a lack of grandparenting time. (Mizrahi v. Cannon, 375 N.J. Super. 221 (App. Div. 2005)).

My South Jersey Law Office regularly serves the NJ communities of Bellmawr, Runnemede, Deptford, West Deptford, Barrington, Stratford, Westville, Gloucester Township (Blackwood, Glendora, Erial, Sicklerville, Blenheim, Lambs Terrace, Chews Landing, and Hilltop), Clementon, and Washington Township, (Turnersville, Sewell, Hurffville, Grenloch, CrossKeys, Bunker Hill and Chapel Heights).

If you are a grandparent that lives in one of these areas, or any other area of South Jersey and wish to acquire greater visitation time with your grandchildren, then contact my office immediately for a free consultation.  I treat every client with extra-special care and go over the evidence and facts of their case, in-depth, so that no stone is unturned in their legal defense.

Call us for quality, compassionate, and individualized representation 856-873-3730

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