When people speak of families, they can refer to any number of relationships. Today, six distinct family types define relationships of blood and marriage. Though often overlooked, grandparent families present a viable option for families and courts in child custody and other family law issues.
Your family type matters
Rigid definitions do not define families per se, but each type has unique components that provide a sense of perspective for its members.
- Nuclear (traditional) families: Two-parent families, usually married, along with their natural or adopted children living in one home. Sixty-nine percent of families live in this type as of 2016.
- Single-parent families: One parent, whether divorced, widowed or never married, with one or more children. Common issues include shared parenting and financial support.
- Extended families: Two or more adults related through blood or marriage occupying the same household, usually with children. Less common in the United States, these families help connect generations.
- Childless families: Two people who either cannot or choose not to have children. These couples can experience isolation when friends their age have children.
- Step families: Two separate families merge into one. For example, two divorced parents each with one or more children marry. Alternatively, a divorced parent with children marries someone who has never been married or had children.
- Grandparent families: Families in which one or grandparents raise their grandchild or grandchildren.
Grandparent options in New Jersey
Grandparent families have increased steadily over the past several years. In New Jersey, more than 10% of children under age two and 3 percent of children between 15 and 17 live with their grandparents. State law provides grandparents with the ability to petition courts for visitation as well as seek custody. Judges consider several factors to determine whether this arrangement serves the best interests of the child.
The legal authority to make decisions concerning a child’s care rests with the parents. Unforeseen or usual circumstances may compel investigating different family types to provide care for a child. An attorney with experience in these issues can provide more detail.