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What Minnesota law says about visitation rights and grandparents

In today's post, we'll discuss an area of family law that often takes on added importance during the holiday season: the visitation rights of grandparents. 

When it comes to this frequently contentious issue, most people mistakenly believe that grandparents generally have no rights whatsoever when it comes to visitation time with their grandchildren.

Under Minnesota law, however, both grandparents and great-grandparents are indeed able to seek an order from the district court granting them visitation rights under the following circumstances:

  • If the parent dies.
  • If family court proceedings (divorce, custody, annulment, legal separation, etc.) have been initiated or completed.
  • If the grandparents or great-grandparents have had the child living with them for at least one year prior to being removed by the child's parents.
  • If the child is adopted by a stepparent, provided the grandparent is either the parent of the child's deceased parent or the parent of the child whose parental rights were terminated by an adoption order. 

In all of the above scenarios, the district court will only grant visitation rights to grandparents and great-grandparents if:

  • The granting of visitation rights is in the best interests of the child.
  • The granting of visitation rights does not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

In the event a parent asserts the latter, the district court must hold a hearing in which the objecting parent must prove -- by a preponderance of the evidence -- that interference would indeed occur.

Regarding adoption, it's important to understand that if the adoption of the child is completed by someone other than a stepparent, grandparents cannot secure visitation rights over the objections of the adoptive parent(s).

Nevertheless, they might still be able to enter into a communication agreement at the time of the adoption provided that 1) they lived with the child prior to the adoption, or 2) the child's parents are both deceased and they are being adopted by a relative.

As with many other family law topics, all of this serves to underscore just how imperative it is for those grandparents or great-grandparents seeking visitation to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can not only explain their rights but fight to enforce them.

Source: ProJusticeMN, "Visitation of children by third parties," Feb. 2013

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