What exactly is in a child’s best interest? How often should a child be allowed to visit with a third party? When is a parent unfit? There are distinct sides to every issue, and the topic of grandparents rights is certainly no exception.
One’s rights as a parent or grandparent are very complicated. If you have a situation involving your children or grandchildren that cannot be resolved, you may need to speak to an attorney. Remember, it is always in the best interest of the child for parents and grandparents to resolve such a conflict privately. But, if the conflict is unable to be resolved, there may be no other alternative.
Be sure to meet with an attorney that specializes in family law, especially one with experience in third party visitation. The laws change from state to state. Visitation rights are dependent on the state in which the child resides, and you will need to go to court every time the child moves.
In a recent Supreme Court decision, Justice O’Connor, along with Chief Justice, Justice Ginsberg and Justice Breyer stated that although they strongly recommend grandparent visitation, it is ultimately at the discretion of the parent to whom visitation rights with a child are granted. Of course this is assumed that the parent is a fit guardian…a determination also filled with complexity and vagueness.
The case was that of Troxel vs. Granville. Tommie Granville, the defendant, shared a relationship with Brad Troxel, the son of the petitioners, that ended in 1991. The two were never married but had two daughters. After the separation, Troxel and his parents continued to have regular visitations with the children. The Troxels then continued to have regular visitation with their grandchildren even after their son’s death in 1993. However, a few months later, Granville informed the Troxels that she would be limiting their visitations to one short visit per month.
The Troxels filed in the Washington Superior Court to obtain visitation rights. The Troxels were granted visitation one weekend per month, one week during the summer and four hours on both of the grandparents’ birthdays. Granville conceded that she was not denying the Troxels visitation; she was exercising her right as a parent to decide when and how often those visitations should occur. Granville appealed, and the case was remanded to Superior Court.
The Court’s conclusion stated that “the application of section 26.10.160(3) to Granville (the custodial parent) and her family violated her due process right to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of her daughters.”
The New Jersey’s Grandparents’ Visitation statute is quite specific. It is the general consensus that in New Jersey, the rights of the grandparents have not been reduced by the United States Supreme Court.
The law in New Jersey has now taken on an even more difficult term. Our Courts have now ruled that an Order for grandparents or any third parties to secure parenting time or visitation with a grandchild that the burden shifts to the grandparent to demonstrate that there would be psychological harm or some form of harm to the child in the event that visitation was denied. This area of law has become a complex minefield that should be negotiated only by the most experienced attorneys in the area.
Richard Klein, Esquire, has a great deal of experience in third party visitation rights and has been successful in numerous cases involving these issues. For more information on your rights as a parent or grandparent, contact Richard Klein, Esquire on line or call 856-988-5470. Mr. Klein serves clients in Cherry Hill, Maple Shade, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel as well as throughout the state of New Jersey.