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Can child visitation rights be granted for non-parents?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2023 | Child Custody

In New Jersey family law cases, there might be a perception that a child custody and visitation dispute only relates to the child’s parents. While this is true in a large portion of cases, there are others who might want to see the child.

The law specifically addresses this for grandparents and siblings. All involved should remember that with these sensitive issues, it is imperative to protect the child and to have comprehensive assistance throughout the case.

How does the court handle grandparent or sibling requests for visitation?

A grandparent or sibling of the child has the legal right to request visitation. As with any determination regarding the child, their best interests will be the primary factor.

The court will assess the relationship between the child and the person seeking visitation. If, for example, the grandparent had a fundamental role in the child’s development and regular contact, this can be a key part of the decision. The parents’ relationship with the person who is seeking visitation is also imperative. Not every relationship is smooth. This is especially true in a contentious divorce. If the parent objects, the court will weigh this when deciding.

In many instances, the child has not had contact with the sibling or grandparent for an extended period. The court will look at how much time has elapsed. The court will analyze how the child will be affected by allowing or not allowing the visitation rights.

In a divorce, the parents will generally have a time-sharing agreement. A decision allowing sibling or grandparent visitation could make it necessary to change that agreement. The intentions of the grandparent or siblings are factored in as part of the process. If there were allegations of abuse or neglect by the person applying for visitation, this too is a key part of the decision.

If the person seeking visitation was a full-time caretaker of the child, the court will automatically function under the belief that visitation is in the child’s best interests. Those objecting must prove that it is not to the child’s benefit to allow it.

For complex custody and visitation cases, it is wise to have qualified help

Family dynamics will differ and the court must account for that when it is confronted with custody and visitation requests from people other than the child’s parents. There may have been complexities in the relationships or it might just be people who want to ensure they maintain contact with the child.

In these cases, it is important to fully understand the law and to have help in trying to achieve the objectives while still protecting the child. Having professional assistance can be crucial.