Typically, only a child’s parents are granted formal custody or visitation rights after a divorce or separation. However, a New Jersey judge may also grant those rights to the child’s siblings or grandparents. There are many factors that will likely be taken into consideration when determining if that is appropriate in a given situation.
The child’s best interest trumps everything else
A judge must decide that granting a sibling or grandparent visitation rights would be in a minor’s best interest. This generally means that the person seeking these rights must be capable of keeping the minor safe at all times. Furthermore, a judge will want to see evidence that there is a strong relationship between the child and the party seeking the order.
The relationship between the child and parent is paramount
Generally speaking, a request for visitation will be denied if it unduly strains the relationship between the child and his or her parents. If the child is living with another adult, allowing visitation cannot interfere with the existing bond between those two individuals. An application may also be denied if granting it would make it difficult for the child’s parents to adhere to their existing child custody or visitation schedule.
Typically, the law recognizes that a child generally benefits from having close relationships with extended family members. Therefore, if you believe that you could add something to a sibling or grandchild’s life, you should seek visitation rights in a timely manner. If you were the child’s caregiver prior to making a request for visitation or custody rights, your request will likely be granted.