N.J. Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Grandparents Receiving Visitation Following Adoption by Family Members
SteveK July 5th, 2011
In J.M.S. v. J.W., the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, recently concluded that the Adoption Act, does not bar grandparents from seeking visitation under the grandparent visitation statute. The trial court judge relied heavily on the case of In re Adoption of a Child by W.P., 163 N.J. 158 (2000). The Appellate Court distinguished this case from W.P. because W.P. addressed the issue of grandparent visitation in the context of a non-relative adoption. In this case, the children had been adopted by other relatives.
Plaintiffs in this appeal are the paternal grandparents of J.W., born in 1999, and T.W., born in 2001. Defendants are the adoptive parents and are cousins of the children’s biological mother.
Beginning in or about December 2008, parents began to cut the grandparents out of the children’s lives. The parents refused to inform the grandparents of events, and then flatly denied them visits and/or access to the children. These actions were quickly followed by allegations from the grandparents that the parents were now taking poor care of the children.
In this appeal the plaintiffs’ requested grandparent visitation where:
(1) The grandparents had been the children’s temporary foster parents for almost two years;
(2) The children were later adopted by defendants who are related to the children’s mother; and
(3) Defendants had afforded the grandparents visitation for two years following the adoptions.
Following oral argument, the trial judge dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint for grandparent visitation, based upon the W.P. case. The grandparents appealed.
The Appellate Court concluded that the Adoption Act, N.J.S.A. 9:3-38 to -56, does not preclude these grandparents from seeking visitation under the grandparent visitation statute (N.J.S.A. 9:2-71), because the W.P. case dealt with children who were adopted by a non-relative. The Appellate Division determined that this distinction was critical and subsequently reversed the Order granting summary judgment to defendants, reinstated grandparents’ Complaint for grandparent visitation, and remanded for further proceedings.
DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, PC ( http://www.dbnjlawblog.com) is a full service law firm in New Jersey which provides a broad range of legal services, including the representation of parties in matrimonial and family law matters. For additional information about the matters in this bulletin or in the firm’s family law practice please contact James Moloughney, Esq.