Dueling Grandparents – Grand Parent’s Custody Rights in New Jersey

When the biological parents are unfit to parent their child, it can place a tremendous burden and accompanying stress on the replacement custodians; often one of the sets of grandparents.  The burden may have just increased with a recently published case (meaning that new law has been created).
Essentially, the stresses of having to step in for unfit parents isn’t limited to the “custodial” grandparents against the biological parents, but can often extend to the non-custodial grandparents; the grandparents who did not receive a Court order awarding them custody of the child.  Both sets of grandparents love their grandchild.  However, they may have different views on many custodial issues such as: who should the child be living with, who should share time with the child, how should the child be raised, etc.Generally, one of the sets of grandparents will be initially awarded temporary physical custody of the child.  If the custodial grandparents elect to shut the other grandparents out of the child’s life, what can that second set of grandparents do?Under the newly clarified law, the Court has made it clear that a grandparent with custody does not have the same level of autonomy as the actual parents of a child would have.  Grandparents with custody cannot force the other grandparents to satisfy with the Court a difficult burden of proof before visitation will be shared.  All that the non-custodial grandparents must show is that it is in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with BOTH grandparents.  This is not a difficult burden.In my opinion, this clarification of custodial rights will have important ramifications moving forward, including possibly expanding the visitation rights of other close relatives such as aunts and uncles.

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