In most states, including Minnesota, it is assumed that grandparents will have the ability to see their grandchildren when their own child has the children with him or her. Obviously, this won’t happen if the parent (child of the grandparents) is deceased. It will be difficult if that parent has minimal parenting time or contact with the children or if the grandparents and their own child (the parent of the grandchildren) don’t get along. Minnesota Courts also believe that it is the right of a parent to raise their children and make decisions whether or not to allow contact with the grandparents – so the wishes or concerns of the parents will not be taken lightly by the Court.
Minnesota does have laws and a process to allow grandparents (and great-grandparents) to go to Court for an Order for visitation with their grandchildren under some circumstances. (Minnesota Statutes §257C.08, subdivisions 1, 2 and 3)
In all cases, the Court will need to determine whether the visitation is in the best interests of the grandchildren and that the visitation will not interfere with the parent-child relationship. The second determination is made because, by granting visitation rights to a grandparent, there is a parent of the grandchildren who will have less time with their children. In addition, if there is animosity between the grandparents and one, or both, of the parents, the Court needs to consider whether that hostility can be reined in by the grandparents so as not to affect the children’s relationship with their own father or mother. Before a Court denies a grandparent visitation based on interference of the parent-child relationship, the Court must hold a hearing and the parent must prove to the Court, beyond a preponderance of the evidence, that the interference will happen (Minnesota Statutes §257C.08, subdivision 7)
The situations in which a grandparent can ask the Court for visitation are:
- Their child (the parent of the grandchildren) is deceased. To determine if it is in the best interests of the children, the Court will look at the amount of contact the grandparents have had with their grandchildren in the past, such as baby-sitting, taking the children on vacations or outings, watching them before or after school. The Court will concentrate on the recent past, and on the frequency, regularity and consistency of the time the children spent with their grandparents. The Court also must look at whether the visitation will interfere with the parent-child relationship between the remaining parent and the grandchildren. In this situation, the grandparents will not lose their right to ask for visitation, even if their grandchildren are adopted by their step-parent. (Minnesota Statutes, § 257C.08, subdivision 6)
- The parents of the children are, or were, involved in a court process that also included the children, such as a divorce, legal separation, custody, or paternity proceeding. Again, the Court will need to look at the contact between the grandparents and the grandchildren to determine whether the visitation is in the best interests of the grandchildren, as well as make sure that the parent-child relationship is not interfered with. And, in this case, the Court will look at both parents and their relationship with the children, especially as it looks for any hostility or strain in the relationships between the grandparents and parents that could affect the best interests of the grandchildren.
- The grandchild has resided with the grandparents for at least a year, and then moves away. Here, there is usually no problem showing the Court that there has been substantial on-going contact between the grandparents and the grandchildren, but the Court must still decide whether the visitation will be in the best interests of the children and whether it will interfere with the parent-child relationship.
Grandparent visitation cases are difficult for the Courts. They are also difficult for parties to prepare and pursue on their own. While the Court has developed many forms for Family Court matters, so that people can try to handle their case on their own, there are no forms available to ask for Grandparent Visitation. In addition, the grandparents will probably not know what they need to prove to the Court or how to present their case in order to give the Court reasons to find that visitation with their grandchildren is in their best interests and will not interfere with the parent-child relationship. It is important for grandparents to seek counsel and advice from an experienced family law attorney if they are considering seeking visitation with their grandchildren.
GLORIA E. BOGEN has been a Family Law attorney in Minnesota for over 33 years. She has represented many grandparents in visitation cases, many while she was the Director and lead attorney at Legal Assistance of Washington County (a non-profit legal aid provider). She has the experience and knowledge to guide her clients through the Family Court system and help them obtain the results they desire. If you have any questions about grandparent visitation or any other family law matter, please contact Gloria at 651-291-1717, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The law is continually evolving and Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship. Postings are for informational purposes and are not solicitations, legal advice, or tax advice. A viewer of Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog should not rely upon any information in the blog without seeking legal counsel.