Parental Unfitness and Exceptional Circumstances in New Jersey Grandparents’ Rights Cases
Grandparents can be some of the most influential people in a young child’s life. This may be especially true if the grandparents are the child’s primary caretakers due to their parents’ inability to care for them properly. In a situation where a parent is unfit to care for their children, it may be vital to the child’s well-being for their grandparent to get visitation or custody rights.
If you suspect that your grandchild is in a situation involving parental unfitness or exceptional circumstances, you should enlist the help of a New Jersey grandparents’ rights attorney immediately. Our dedicated legal professionals at Moskowitz Law Group can assess your unique situation and help you take legal action to protect your grandchildren from inadequate care. To learn more about parental unfitness and exceptional circumstances in New Jersey grandparents’ rights cases, give us a call.
When is a Parent Considered to be Unfit?
Children have various fundamental care and survival requirements that must be met by their parents. If a child’s parents’ are unfit to provide a proper level of care, grandparents may be compelled to intervene and seek custody rights based on the unfitness of the parent. A biological parent might be considered unfit for parenthood if they are:
- Failing to ensure the child has food, water, and shelter
- Failing to ensure the child is attending school
- Subjecting and/or inflicting the child to physically or emotionally abusive behavior
- Found to be mentally ill or incapacitated
- Found to neglect or abandon the child
- Found to confine or restrain the child
- Acting in any other way that has a substantial adverse effect on the child’s welfare
Grandparents who suspect their grandchild is suffering due to an unfit parent or exceptional circumstances should contact a New Jersey grandparents’ rights attorney to discuss their legal options. In extreme circumstances, the neglect or abuse should also be reported to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), which will investigate and take appropriate action.
Pursuing Grandparents’ Rights When a Parent is Deemed Unfit
New Jersey takes matters of child custody very seriously, and courts strive to make decisions that are in the child’s best interests. Even if it may seem evident that intervention is necessary, there is still a legal process that must be followed for grandparents to obtain verifiable custodial rights.
Before filing a custody petition, grandparents seeking visitation rights should enlist the help of a local custody attorney. A legal professional can help guide the grandparents through the complexities of the legal processes involved with custody rights due to parental unfitness and exceptional circumstances in New Jersey.
Next, grandparents must notify all parties of their intention to pursue custody Ideally, this would lead to an amicable resolution, but this is not always the case. In the event of a disagreement, grandparents would then file a non-dissolution application in the family court. Once this application is in, a grandparent and their family law attorney must begin to gather evidence that establishes that the child’s best interests would be served by granting custody to the grandparents.
What Does a Court Consider When Granting Grandparents Visitation Rights?
Parents have a given right to the care and custody their child and generally do not need to prove that their care is adequate. However, grandparents do not share these same rights regarding their grandchildren. Therefore, in order for a court to supersede the natural rights of the parent, the grandparent’s visitation must be found to be in the child’s best interests.
In New Jersey, statute New Jersey Revised Statutes §9:2-7.1. outlines visitation rights for grandparents or siblings. In making a decision about grandparents’ rights, the court will consider the following factors:
- The relationship between the child and the grandparent
- The relationship between each of the child’s parents/guardians and the grandparent
- The amount of time since the child last had contact with the grandparent
- The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the parents/guardians
- If the parents are divorced or separated, the current time-sharing arrangement
- The good faith of the grandparent
- Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent
- Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child
After assessing the factors listed above, the court may decide that it is in the child’s best interests to grant visitation. If the court grants custody to the grandparents, it is usually in cases where the grandparents are the child’s de facto parents, meaning they are already the day-to-day caretaker of the child due to an unfit parent. A skilled family law attorney can help New Jersey grandparents gather evidence of an unfit parent or exceptional circumstances and help them gain the custody or visitation they seek.
Speak with a New Jersey Attorney Today About Parental Unfitness and Exceptional Circumstances in Grandparents’ Rights Cases
As a grandparent, your grandchildren mean everything to you. When you suspect they are in a situation where they are directly suffering because of their unfit parent, it is important to realize that you have legal options.
New Jersey courts take grandparents’ rights cases very seriously. A local attorney can help guide you through the ensuing legal processes involved in cases of parental unfitness and exceptional circumstances in New Jersey grandparents’ rights cases. Contact us today to set up your free case evaluation.