New Jersey Resources and Links for Families and Children
Child custody after the death of the custodial parent
In Watkins v. Nelson, 165 NJ 235 (2000), a fight developed between the grand parents and the father after the mother of child, who was the custodial parent, had died. The New Jersey Supreme Court found that NJSA 9:2-5 addressed the custody of a child after the death of a custodial parent. A presumption exists in favor of the custodial-parent but that presumption can be overcome by a third party, such as a grand parent. However, the presumption can only be overcome if it is shown that the natural parent is unfit, has abandoned the child, is guilty of gross misconduct or there are other exceptional circumstances. At that point, then the court will have to look at the best interests of the child.