More than 20,000 children under the age of 18 live with a grandparent who provides their primary care. Disability, death, abandonment, neglect, abuse, addiction, and divorce have grandparents raising a second generation of children.
What about grandparents who want to spend time with their grandchildren after the death or divorce of their child? Most of the time, the children’s parents encourage spending time with grandparents. However, if the parents do not, grandparents may be cut off from their grandchildren. If you want to maintain or establish a relationship with your grandchildren, you may need a family law attorney to help.
The Law Office of Glen A. Norton has assisted Minnesota grandparents in Minnetonka, Hennepin County, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Eden Prairie, and Wayzata for over three decades. Attorney Glen A. Norton understands the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren and the wish to spend time with them.
The law has long upheld that the care and custody of minor children is the purview of the parents; however, that is not unfettered. The State of Minnesota has a duty to see that the best interests of children are served and does so through the courts.
The rights of grandparents are rooted in common law, although those rights were moral rather than a matter of state statute. Ironically, it has been the breakdown of the family that has caused more grandparents to turn to the courts for help when parents will not let them spend time with their grandchildren. Minnesota law regarding a grandparent’s rights to visitation and custody is relatively new.
The law and the courts are driven by two principles: the best interests of the child and the protection from interference in the parent-child relationship.
You should first try to obtain the voluntary permission of your grandchildren’s parents to spend time with them. If the parents refuse, you could ask them to participate in mediation which would keep everyone out of court. If that fails, you can file for visitation through the court if you meet any of these standards:
Your child is deceased, and you want to establish visitation with your deceased child’s minor children.
Your child is in the process of or has completed a divorce, annulment, legal separation, custody, or paternity proceeding, and you wish to establish visitation. If denied, you may not petition the court for six months unless the grandchildren’s parents agree to it.
Your grandchildren lived with you for at least 12 months before they were removed from your home by their parents.
Although these situations give you the legal right to file for visitation, the court will nonetheless be guided by the children’s best interests and the avoidance of interference with the parent-child relationship.
Your grandchildren’s “best interests” is subject to interpretation; however, the court will consider such things as:
Do you spend time and talk to your grandchildren?
How well do you know your grandchildren and their preferences, habits, interests, and activities?
Do you help your grandchildren with learning and educational activities such as homework?
Do your grandchildren enjoy spending time with you?
Third-party custody gives legal and/or physical custody of minor children to someone other than the biological parents, for example, a grandparent. This should not be confused with a guardianship which may be awarded if both parents are deceased, or if their parental rights have been terminated. The biological parents may still retain visitation, or “parenting time,” and may be ordered to pay child support.
As a grandparent, you may want to pursue third-party custody to provide a stable, safe, and healthy environment for your grandchildren if you fear for them in the custody of their biological parents. With custody, your grandchildren will live with you, and you will make decisions about their education, healthcare, and other major issues.
In reviewing what is in the best interest of the minor children in a third-party custody matter, the court will consider the mental and physical health of everyone involved as well as their wishes for the children. If mature enough, the court will consider what the child wants as well. Also considered are factors such as:
The relationship between the child and all other parties
Who currently acts as the child’s major caregiver
How custody would affect the child’s relationships with siblings and others
How safe and stable is the current home the child resides in
The impacts on the child regarding the location of the home, schools, church, and other factors
The strength of the current family unit
The child’s cultural and religious heritage and the importance of supporting it
The evidence of any abuse or neglect
There are many reasons you may be compelled to establish visitation or custody with your grandchildren. Because every reason is emotional, you benefit from a compassionate attorney who will advocate for you and your grandchildren. If you live in Minnetonka, Minnesota, or the surrounding areas, let The Law Office of Glen A. Norton help. Your relationship with your grandchildren is important. Call now.