A new case by the NJ Supreme Court has recently ruled that grandparents who sue for visitation rights of their minor grandchildren may have more standing than previously thought. According to the decision, this would include filing the claim as a complex litigation, which carries with it clauses for discovery and case management conferences. This is a new movement in the direction of granting greater rights to grandparents, with the explicit intention of causing the best possible outcome for the child involved.
The Case: The above grandparent visitation decision came out of a state decision on Major v. Maguire, in which a couple was married for several years, and then divorced, before the former husband died of cancer four years later. The parents of the deceased husband then had a very negative relationship with their former daughter in law, and were denied contact with their grandchildren. This is a classic case of reasons why grandparents would be looking to file for visitation rights. In solving this case, the court has laid out a more clear proceeding for others of similar nature to successfully be litigated in the upcoming years.
In a statement released to the court, Justice Anne Patterson said that “the court’s focus, and that of the parties, must be on the welfare of the child…no matter how difficult the circumstances may be.” This is in line with typical divorce and child custody arrangements and carries over here with grandparent visitation.
Six Principles for Visitation: In their decision, the state has included six specific legal principles for the grandparent visitation with their grandchildren where previously denied:
- The case management should be guided by the legal template in R. 5:5-7, which lays out specific steps into successfully arbitrating the disagreement.
- The plaintiff should file a non-conforming complaint in addition to the initial form pleading under Directive 8-11. This is required to sufficiently prove their need for visitation.
- In the event of required discovery, both parties should be working together to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
- For the grandparents to meet their burden, they may require expert testimony to come forward to prove that there has been harm done in their denial of spending time with the grandchildren.
- After the grandparents have had their time to conduct fact finding and expert discovery and cannot do so, a court should not hesitate to dismiss their charge.
- Finally, the families and parties involved in the arbitration should always been encouraged to work through it individually through mediation, as it is in the best interest for the family as a whole, and in turn the child in question.
What should you do? If you have been denied grandparent visitation with your grandchildren and have sufficient proof that this is causing harm to the child, you may be eligible to file suit to regain these rights. For a legal consultation with attorneys, Esq. at Borrus, Foley, Vignuolo, Hyman, and Stahl PC, give us a call today at 732-422-1000.