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Understanding Grandparent Visitation Rights

The Law Office of Glen A. Norton April 27, 2022

When two parents divorce, it means a complete rebuilding of the family’s life. They will have to make hard decisions about where each spouse will live and how custody and visitation time will be split with the children. One important group that often gets overlooked in this area, however, is grandparents. Older couple playing with a little girl

After a divorce or the unfortunate case of one parent passing away, many grandparents are left wondering if they have any rights to custody or visitation, and if so, what that will look like. There are some laws in place that protect grandparents’ rights, but these can be complicated to navigate. You may need the help of a family law attorney to help pursue them.

The Law Office of Glen A. Norton PLLC can help you understand your options and make informed decisions. Call today if you’re in the Minnetonka, Minnesota area or anywhere in Hennepin County, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Wayzata, or Eden Prairie.

Grandparents’ Rights in Minnesota

Grandparents’ rights are fairly limited in Minnesota, but they do exist. If you’re a grandparent and are unable to spend time with your grandchild due to a divorce or the death of your child, you should make every attempt to reconcile differences without involving the court. This could mean speaking with the other parent to arrange a visitation schedule that works for all parties or enlisting the help of a mediator to come to an agreement. If this is unsuccessful, you can file a petition with the courts.

Visitation

When you ask the court to intervene and grant visitation, you must prove that you have “standing.” This could mean that your child has died and was the parent of your grandchild, your child is going through divorce or custody proceedings, your grandchild has lived with you for at least a year before the parents removed them, or a stepparent has adopted your grandchild.

You must also show that regular visitation would be in the best interests of the child and that it wouldn’t interfere with the parent-child relationship. This is a subjective factor, but a judge will generally look at how much time you’ve spent with your grandchild, how involved you are in their life, and how well you know them. If you were prohibited from seeing them, a judge will look at the efforts you’ve made to have a relationship with them, such as sending cards and gifts, writing letters, or calling on the phone. The court will also look to see that you aren’t saying anything bad about the parents and that you remain positive for the sake of your grandchild.

If the grandchild’s parents were not married but signed a Recognition of Parentage, you can also seek visitation rights. In some cases, after a parent dies or divorces, the other parent may remarry and the stepparent will legally adopt your grandchild. You still may have rights to visitation if you can show that either your child was one of the parents and has since died or that your child’s parental rights were terminated after the adoption. So, even if your child is no longer the legal parent of your grandchild, you can still petition the court for visitation rights.

Custody

In rare cases, a grandparent may seek custody of grandchildren as a third party, but this is much harder to do. First, you must show that you have a significant and substantial relationship with your grandchild. You must also prove that the biological parents have neglected or abandoned their child or put them in physical or emotional danger. If the court feels the child’s best interests are served by appointing the grandparent custody, it can do so.

How an Experienced Attorney Can Help

Although Minnesota does have statutes to protect grandparents’ rights, it’s still a good idea to work with an attorney who’s well-versed in state law and has extensive experience with visitation and custody proceedings. If you’re in the Minnetonka, Minnesota, area and would like to know more about your rights as a grandparent, contact The Law Office of Glen A. Norton PLLC today.