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Grandparent Visitation

Following a divorce, visitation between children and their grandparents is not automatic. Grandparent visitation usually becomes an issue when the non-custodial parent has restricted visitation (because of psychological or behavioral problems), or when the non-custodial parent does not exercise the visitation options outlined in the divorce agreement. The assumption is made that extended family members will see the children when they are with the that family's parent (paternal or maternal). If the parent has restricted visitation, or does not exercise visitation rights, then the grandparents often seek to have their own visitation time, without the parent. Occasionally, grandparents may seek visitation with children when there is no divorce, but the relationship between the parents and grandparents is problematic, resulting in restricted contact with the children, for the grandparents. 

Grandparent visitation is not considered a right, like parental visitation rights, and parents are presumed to have the right to sever their relationship with the grandparents, which would eliminate contact with the children. In New Jersey, grandparent visitation is addressed in specific legislation. The law outlines when grandparent visitation would be presumed to be in the child's best interests, and when it would be reasonable to restrict visitation, or simply to not interfere with the parents' decision to restrict visitation. 

The issue to be resolved in grandparent visitation evaluations, is whether it is in the best interests of the child to have grandparent visitation, and whether the court will create additional problems by interfering with the parents' right to make decisions about their own children. Since the issue to be evaluated is what is in the best interests of the child, a psychological evaluation of all or some of the parties is typically indicated. The emotional stability of the grandparents is often the most important factor to consider, followed by the prior relationship between grandparent and child. Finally, the relationship between the parents and grandparents should be assessed, and the impact of court interference with the parents' child rearing decisions (to restrict grandparent visitation) must be considered. Because the grandparents are not considered to have a right to visitation (it is an issue of the child's right to have the benefit of a relationship with the grandparents, if that would be a positive influence on the child's development), it is more important to weigh the pros and cons of how increased parent-grandparent conflict will negatively impact the child versus the positive impact on the child of having a relationship with the grandparent. 

Some factors that should be considered: 

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