In a previous blog entry, I discussed the rights that grandparents have to visitation with their grandchildren. Under New Jersey law, grandparents do not have the right to force visitation with their grandchildren unless denial of visitation causes harm to the child or if the grandparents have become what is known as a “psychological parent,” meaning that they have effectively become another parent to the child. We have gotten a lot of feedback about this prior article. Well, we have an update.

On May 14, 2013, the Appellate Division in New Jersey issued a ruling in a grandparents’ rights case litigated by Morgenstern & Rochester. In this particular case, Koeppel vs. Pierson, the Appellate Division upheld the right to visitation where the grandmother had raised the child for many years because the biological parents could not due to drug addiction.

When the biological father was later able to assume the parental role, residential custody was transferred to him. He then tried to cut the grandmother out. The trial court sided with the grandmother. The biological father then appealed, and that is where Morgenstern & Rochester got involved. Morgenstern & Rochester secured the right of the grandmother to custody every other weekend by successfully arguing that the grandmother was the child’s psychological parent, and thus she stood as an equal to the father in the eyes of the law.

For a grandparent to stand as equal to a biological parent requires the grandparent to prove four facts: 1) that the biological parent consented to a parent/child-like relationship between the grandparent and grandchild, 2) that the grandparent and the child lived together in the same household, 3) that the grandparent assumed the obligations of parenthood and 4) that the grandparent held a parent-like relationship for an extended period of time to establish a parent-like bond with the child.

In the Koeppel case, because the grandmother had custody of the child for an extended period of time, had assumed the duties of parenthood and formed a bond with the child like a parent would have, the Appellate Division found that the grandmother was a psychological parent. The Appellate Division held that, “A biological parent and a grandparent with psychological parent status stand in parity to one another.”

While every case is different, this case does give some hope to grandparents who are forced by circumstances to take over care for their grandchildren. If you think that your case might be similar, please contact Morgenstern & Rochester at (856) 489-6200 to arrange a consultation with one of our attorneys.