Grandparents or siblings of a child residing in New Jersey have a statutory right to file an application with the Court seeking visitation under N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1. The statute has been in effect since 1971, with amendments made in 1987 and 1993. The statute states, in part, that the applicant has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that granting the requested visitation is in the best interests of the child. The statute enumerates eight (8) factors for the court to consider in deciding a grandparent’s or sibling’s visitation application. Additionally, the statute indicates that an applicant’s history as a full-time caretaker for the child will serve as prime facie evidence that visitation is in the child’s best interest.
In 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Troxel v. Granville, and invalidated a grandparent visitation statute in the State of Washington on the grounds that it infringed on fit parents’ constitutional right to rear their children. 530 U.S. 57 (2000). In 2003, the New Jersey Supreme Court analyzed New Jersey’s grandparent visitation statute in the case of Moriarty v. Bradt, in light of the Troxel decision. 177 N.J. 84 (2003). In Moriarty, the court opined that “interference with parental autonomy will be tolerated only to avoid harm to the health or welfare of the child.” Moriarty at 115. The court found that the preponderance of evidence burden in the statute, coupled with the avoidance of harm standard, fully protected parents’ fundamental right to raise their child as they see fit. As such, the court decided that the State’s grandparent visitation statute did not violate a parent’s constitutional rights to family privacy and autonomy. The 1993 statute remains in effect to this day.
At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, we know how important your family is to you, and we want to do everything we can to help you through the legal situation that you are currently facing. We are here to listen to your concerns, explain the law and the legal process to you, and present all of your options. Together, we can work toward the goals and make the decisions that are right for you and your family. Contact our office today by phone at (973) 868-0958 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.