At White & Associates, we’ve seen an increase in child custody and visitation cases involving grandparents here in Minnesota. It could be economic circumstances or other factors, but Minnesota families are changing—and grandparents are among the adults most affected by those changes.
Grandparents—who have been involved in the lives of their grandchildren for years—risk being cut out completely when a parent dies, a couple divorces, or after a family experiences a momentous change. They often worry that their grandchildren will feel abandoned by them if they cannot visit. Many feel punished just for expressing views that are different from a parent’s or for being part of the “wrong” side of the family.
Minnesota Law Protects Grandparents
Grandparents should know that Minnesota law protects their rights to visit with their grandchildren, at least to some extent. In particular, Minnesota Statute 257C.08 helps protect grandparents’ rights. The statute says that Minnesota courts may grant visitation rights if two things are true: visitation would be in the best interests of the child and that visitation it would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
Grandparents can petition the court for these rights in three different situations:
- If the child’s parent has passed away
- In family court proceedings after dissolution (divorce), legal separation, annulment or parentage (paternity) have been granted
- If the child has lived with the grandparents for at least 12 months and has then been removed from the grandparents’ home by the child’s parents
Understanding the “Best Interests” Standard
The court considers the best interests of the child, but what does that mean exactly? In Minnesota, a series of factors help courts determine a child’s best interests. Courts look at things like the relationship between the child and other important people; the child’s adjustment to home, school and community; the mental and physical health of the people involved; and each individual’s capacity to give the child love.
Want to Seek Your Visitation Rights?
If you’re thinking of petitioning the court for court-ordered visitation with your grandchild, there are some things that you should consider. Most importantly, getting a lawyer’s help is key. Grandparents sometimes try to handle things on their own. But the law and family court procedures can be confusing, which means it is easy to make mistakes.
If the court denies your petition for visitation with your grandchild, you may have to wait for a period of time before filing again. This may mean waiting even longer for precious time with your grandchildren. The sooner you seek help from an experienced attorney, the sooner you can be back spending quality time together.