Children and their grandparents can develop deep, meaningful relationships. These family relationships can be very important to the children’s happiness and development. It can serve the best interests of the children to have regular visitation with their grandparents.
In some families grandparents have no choice but to ask the court to grant them the access to continue these valuable relationships with their grandchildren. These situations often arise because the grandchild’s parent on that side of the family is dead, absent, had his or her own parenting time severely restricted, or is estranged from the grandparents and not willing to allow grandparent visitation.
Under Minnesota law grandparents may obtain their own court-ordered visitation in these situations:
- Their own child and parent of their grandchildren is dead;
- The grandchild lived with the grandparents for at least 12 months; or
- The grandchildren’s parents are or previously have been parties to a marital dissolution, child custody, legal separation, annulment or parentage proceedings that involved the grandchildren.
In all of the above situations the grandparents must show that their visitation would not interfere with the grandchildren’s relationship with their parents.
The most important consideration here will be the extent and quality of the grandparents’ relationship with the grandchildren. The statutes direct the court to “consider the amount of personal contact between the parents or grandparents of the party and the child prior to the application.” The more extensive and positive the contact, the more likely it is that grandparent visitation will be awarded.
In as much as these factors seem straightforward, grandparents will benefit from having legal counsel. Unlike the presumption favoring parental visitation, there is no presumption in favor of grandparent visitation. It is more difficult to demonstrate how grandparent visitation serves the child’s best interests than it is for parental visitation. There is also less time available for grandparents visitation if the grandchildren’s parents live in separate homes under a parenting time schedule. Lastly, grandparents are limited in that they cannot bring another motion for visitation within six months of any previously denied motion.