Since 2000, grandparents have had a more difficult time obtaining visitation rights or custody of grandchildren. When a grandparent in New Jersey wishes to obtain custody of a grandchild, they must make their case based on special circumstances that go above and beyond the general idea that custody would be in the child’s best interest. This has set a new standard in the law that has effectively increased the legal standing of parents over grandparents in regards to custody decisions.
While child custody decisions often fall within the discretion of the judge, a Supreme Court case in 2000 set a slightly higher standard where grandparents’ rights are concerned. The rights of a fit parent to make decisions regarding their child are now considered paramount and are not easily challenged.
This leaves grandparents wishing to obtain legal custody of a child with a narrow list of options. The primary option a grandparent has in such a situation is to argue that the parent is actually unfit to be a custodial parent. Such an argument would likely be based on evidence of abuse, neglect or a pattern of behaviors that put the child’s health or well-being at risk. If the parent can be declared unfit, they may lose much of their legal standing, allowing the court to consider transferring custody to a grandparent.
Convincing the court that a parent is unfit is often not an easy task. A good deal of evidence and proof would be needed. It is sometimes hard to consider circumstances objectively when children and family are involved. An attorney may be an important source of objectivity in a case, helping grandparents to understand their legal situation and how their case may be best argued in court.