A common issue we handle at my law firm is the effect that a divorce may have on a grandparent’s relationship with the children of that parent or couple. Furthermore, as a New Jersey family attorney, I have had cases wherein a death of a parent effects the grandparents time with their grandchildren. Regretfully, in many of these cases I often see parents trying to ostracize their spouse’s parents from the children’s lives, not realizing the damage this can have on a child. While New Jersey grandparent rights cases can be complex legally, I take great pride when I am able to assist these folks and help create a situation that is in the best interests of the children.
I am proud to have represented grandparents who are significant and constant figures in their grandchildren’s lives, only to be denied access to their grandchildren after their own child passes away or the parties’ divorce. I case I recently handled provides a great example of how I am able to help folks who find themselves in this type of situation.
Specifically, I had a client who lost her son tragically to long battle with cancer. This client, who we shall call Sara, was extremely involved in the lives of her son’s children from the time they were born. She was especially involved with the children when her son was ill. Sara would see the children numerous times per week, attend all of their extracurricular activities, take them on vacations, have them sleep over her home and was a general fixture in their lives. The children were extremely close with Sara and her side of the family. However, after the untimely passing of her son, Sara’s daughter in law forbade her or anyone in Sara’s family to see or contact the children. The reason for this was unknown, but as can be expected Sara was heartbroken. Not only did she just lose her beloved son, she was now being kept away from her grandchildren.
Sara’s situation was not only devastating because she had to cope with the tragic loss of her own child, but also because she was being denied access to the children she helped raise and nurture for years. This type of behavior is not only unfair to the grandparents involved, but is detrimental to the children involved as well.
Luckily in New Jersey grandparents have the right to seek visitation with their grandchildren. While history has generally allowed parents to raise their children as they see fit, New Jersey allows grandparents the opportunity to challenge a custodial parent’s decision to keep them out of their grandchildren’s lives. As with any case involving minor children the Court’s primary focus is on what is in the children’s best interests. Grandparents who are being denied access to their grandchildren can file an application under N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1.
This New Jersey statute allows a grandparent or sibling to have a New Jersey Family Court order visitation provided this is in the best interests of the children. The court shall consider a number of factors when deciding if a grandparent has a “legal” right to visitation with their grandchild. These factors primarily focus on the historical relationship between the grandparent and grandchild. The more involved the grandparent has been in the child’s life, the Court is likely to order visitation. Simply put, if the child were to “lose” a grandparent with whom they have a deep emotional bond with, to deprive the child would clearly not be in their best interests.
I am happy to report that Sara was granted visitation with her grandchildren. This blog was written by Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, Esq., a rising star at the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein. If you are being denied access to your grandchildren and need help, please do not hesitate to contact our office to further explore your options of being reunified with your loved ones.