In a recent decision coming out of an appeals court in New Jersey, the superior court’s decision regarding visitation rights for the plaintiff-grandmother was reversed. Originally, the trial court had granted the grandmother visitation with two of her granddaughters under the Grandparent and Sibling Visitation Statute. On appeal, the children’s mother argued that the court’s visitation order was unfair because the court had not properly analyzed the appropriate factors in making the decision. Ultimately, the higher court agreed with the mother and reversed the lower court’s decision.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion in the case K.S.J. v. J.K and K.A.A. (Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Docket No. A-3232-21), the parents in this case divorced in 2020, and the trial court gave the mother sole legal and physical custody of their two daughters. Custody of the parents’ son, however, went to the paternal grandmother since the mother had threatened to place the son in an institution if she were given custody.
In 2022, the parties came to court for a hearing, and the grandmother testified that she had not seen her two granddaughters in almost two years. Because the girls had seen neither their grandmother nor their brother with any degree of regularity, the grandmother asked to be awarded visitation.
The trial court granted the grandmother regular visitation with the girls, and the children’s mom promptly appealed.
On appeal, the mother made clear that she did not approve of the daughters’ grandmother having regular visitation with them. Her main argument in asking the higher court to reverse this decision was that the girls’ grandmother had not proven that the children would suffer harm if visitation was denied. According to the mother, this threshold showing was required under the law, and because the grandmother failed to provide evidence regarding this fact, her request should have been denied.
Looking at the evidence, the court of appeals agreed that the lower court had decided this case without first requiring the grandmother to prove that the girls would suffer harm if she did not have visitation with them. Under New Jersey law, grandparents must make this initial showing before they are able to proceed with their case. Because the lower court granted the grandmother’s request without first looking into this issue, the resulting conclusion was without merit.
Therefore, the higher court reversed the superior court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.
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