Originally Sent: 6/4/2013

From the HSLDA e-lert service…
Home School Legal Defense Association

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Call to Stop Bill That Lets Nearly Any Grandparent Demand Visitation

Homeschooling in New Jersey

Thank you for defending parental rights.

Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with legal issues in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

A bill is set for a hearing in the legislature on Thursday, June 6, that would let nearly any grandparent demand visitation with a grandchild even if the parent does not want it to happen. We need your help!

The New Jersey Supreme Court has appropriately ruled that a judge can only force a parent to allow a grandparent to have visitation with a grandchild if the child would be harmed by lack of visitation. The bill S 789 virtually erases this important Supreme Court protection for families by creating a phony definition of “harm.”

S 789 defines harm to a child five ways: (1) the grandparent ever took care of the child full time; or (2) one parent is dead; or (3) the parents are separated or divorced; or (4) the grandparent has or had a close relationship with the child; or (5) the grandparent made a significant effort to have a close relationship with the child but the parents prevented it.

If these phony definitions become law and one or more applies in a case, a judge will presume the child would be harmed if he does not order visitation. This puts the parent on the defense. If the parent can’t prove a negative—that not having visitation won’t harm the child—the judge will move ahead and follow the steps toward ordering visitation. Proving a negative can be very difficult!

It’s fundamentally wrong and unfair to put a fit parent in that position. And nearly any grandparent could put themselves into one of these categories—especially (4) and (5).

Action Requested

Please call your senator today, Wednesday or Thursday if he or she is on the committee (see list below) that will be hearing the bill on Thursday. Use this link to find out who your senator is.

Your message can be as simple as: “Please vote no on S 789. An important part of being a parent is deciding who should influence and spend time with your children. S 789 will undermine every parent’s ability to decide whether grandparents should influence their children.”

It is not necessary to identify yourself as a homeschooler since the bill impacts all parents.

Contact Information

Senate Judiciary Committee

Scutari, Nicholas P.—Chair
(908) 587-0404

Gill, Nia H.—Vice-Chair
(973) 509-0388

Bateman, Christopher
(908) 526-3600

Cardinale, Gerald
(201) 567-2324

Doherty, Michael J.
(908) 835-0552 (Washington)
(908) 722-2427 (Bridgewater)

Kyrillos, Joseph M.
(732) 671-3206

Lesniak, Raymond J.
(908) 624-0880 (Union)
(908) 327-9119 (Elizabeth)

O’Toole, Kevin J.
(973) 237-1360

Pou, Nellie
(973) 247-1555

Sarlo, Paul A.
(201) 804-8118

Smith, Bob
(732) 752-0770

Stack, Brian P. (201) 721-5263

Weinberg, Loretta
(201) 928-0100

Background Information

The five factors would make sense if S 789 were amended to treat them simply as issues to consider when a judge decides—after real evidence of harm has been presented!—whether it would be in a child’s best interest to order the parents to allow grandparent visitation.

A crucial part of parenting is deciding whom your children should spend time with. Every person your child spends time with influences him or her. And it’s the job of parents, not the state, to decide what influences should come into a child’s life. The state should protect this right, not undermine it.

A law now on the books says that a judge can order grandparent visitation for virtually any reason, as long as it is in the “best interests” of the child. However, in the case of Moriarity v Bradt, 827 A.2d 203 (2003), the New Jersey Supreme Court said that judges cannot use the law to order visitation over a parent’s objection unless the child would actually be harmed. This protects the right of parents to be the decision maker on issues that affect their children.

As long as the Moriarity case controls how the grandparent visitation statute is implemented, parents can be reasonably confident their decisions will be respected. But S 789 creates an end-run around Moriarity. S 789 essentially cuts the muscles out of the Moriarity decision, leaving it nearly powerless to protect parents.

The actual legal jargon S 789 uses in referring to the five factors is “prima facie evidence.” This is about the same thing as a rebuttable presumption in that it shifts the burden of proof to the other party.

The text of S 789 can be read here.

The Moriarity case can be read here.

Thank you for standing with us for liberty!

Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.,
Senior Counsel,
Home School Legal Defense Association

P.S. We greatly value you and your support—it is a privilege to serve you. Thank you for all you do for freedom! If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider taking a moment today to join or recommend us? Your support enables us to defend individual families threatened by government officials and protect homeschooling freedom for all. Join now >>

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