Almost a decade ago, I wrote an article on a decision of the United States Supreme Court on the issue of grandparent visitation rights. In some instances, when a married couple divorces, the divorce literally tears the family apart. A husband and wife who were at one time madly in love now cannot stand one another. In some cases, one or both ex-spouses struggle to invent ways to get under the skin of the other.
In the process, the young children of the former couple are often hurt, as are other members of the extend family. For instance, a grandparent who had a close relationship with their minor grandchild may be forbidden the right to see the grandchild by the custodial parent.
There are also instances where a married couple who are happily married seek to foreclose a relationship between a grandparent and their minor child, for whatever reason. In some cases, there may be justification for the denial of visitation between the grandparent and the minor child. In other cases, the denial may have no logical justification at all; the denial may even be for purely vindictive reasons.
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of grandparent visitation rights in a case entitled Troxel v. Granville. In 2003, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed grandparent visitation rights in a case entitled Moriarty v. Bradt. In essence, a grandparent who seeks visition with a grandchild over the objection of the parents of the child must prove that the deprivation of visitation between the grandparent and child is harmful to the child.
There is currently pending in the New Jersey Legislature a bill that will codify the Troxel and Moriarty decisions. If the bill becomes a law, the law will outline the standards that a grandparent must satisfy in order for a court to establish a schedule of visitation between the grandparent and the minor child over the objection of the child’s parents. The bill is pending in the Assembly; the bill’s number is A2945.
Quite frankly, the pending bill adds nothing to the current body of law. The two supreme court decisions referenced above already outline the standards that a grandparent seeking visitation must satisfy. While the bill will do no harm, I do not believe it will do any good either. It simply reiterates what everyone in the know already knows.