Parental Visitation Rights in New Jersey
By Elizabeth Rayne, J.D.
Public policy in New Jersey holds that both parents should be regularly involved in their child's life. When one parent has sole custody of the child, the other parent is usually granted visitation. Even in cases where domestic violence or mental health issues are present, New Jersey offers supervised visitation programs to ensure children still have contact with both parents.
In New Jersey, as in most states, the court determines custody and visitation arrangements based on what is in the best interests of the child. The court will assume it is in the best interests of the child to spend time with both parents, except for in rare cases where there is evidence that the child would be in danger. The parents may agree on a visitation schedule and submit the schedule to the court for approval. However, if the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will determine the schedule based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Types of Visitation
Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, the court may grant reasonable visitation, fixed visitation or supervised visitation. With reasonable visitation, the parents do not have a set schedule; instead, parenting time occurs whenever it is reasonable for both parties. Conversely, a fixed schedule provides specific times on specific days that the noncustodial parent will spend with the children. In cases of domestic violence or drug use, the court may order supervised visitation, which requires a professional or close relative to monitor parenting time.
In cases where a parent believes that it would not be safe for the other parent to have visitation, such as in cases of domestic violence or psychiatric disorders, either parent may request a risk assessment. A risk assessment gives the court the opportunity to determine the best visitation arrangement for the child. A professional will interview each parent separately. Each parent will have the opportunity to present evidence of domestic violence, mental health problems and documentation showing how the child has been affected, including school or counseling records. The court will review the risk assessment, and may designate a supervisor for parenting time. The court may also suspend parenting time until the parent completes a counseling program.
New Jersey has a supervised visitation program, which allows a parent to spend time with his child in a neutral and safe setting. This gives the parent an opportunity to reconnect and reestablish a relationship with his child, free from interference from the other parent. At the same time, the visit is supervised by trained volunteers to ensure it is a safe environment for the child. State-approved visitation providers are available throughout the state for parents with court-ordered supervised parenting time.
Elizabeth Rayne earned her J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2009, advising clients on issues ranging from employment law to nonprofit management. For two years, she served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."