Divorce is much more common today than it was 50 years ago.  When spouses divorce, custody decisions regarding the children in their marriage are made, including who will be the primary caretaker and where the children will live.  What about the rights of the grandparents to visit with their grandchildren after the divorce?  What if the divorced or widowed spouse does not want to allow children to visit with the grandparents?  This question has been raised several times in Minnesota and so a law was passed under Minnesota Statute Section 518.1752 that addresses the issue.  Minnesota district courts will consider a grandparent’s request for rights of grandparents to visitation when their son or daughter has passed away and may grant rights if it is in the best interest of the child and the visitation would not interfere with the existing parent and child relationship.  In determining whether to grant visitation, the district court takes into consideration how often the grandparents and the child and grandchild had prior to the child passing away.  Typically, the district court wants to see that there was already an established relationship and that continuing such a relationship is in the best interest of the child.

Testimony is typically the evidence used to support a claim of an established relationship and district courts will want to see regular visits and a relationship between grandparent and grandchild.  A district court may examine letters and other correspondence between the grandparents and grandchild.  Also, if a child is at least 12 years old, his or her opinion in the matter is taken into consideration as well as a preference for visitation with grandparents or not.

Additionally, grandparents may apply for visitation rights in situations where a parent has not passed away.  This commonly occurs when the parent is getting a divorce or battling over custody.  Applications may also be made in situations where a minor grandchild has lived with the grandparents for a year or more.  If a parent then decides to remove the grandchild from the grandparents’ home, the district court will consider granting visitation rights.  Again the district court will take into consideration the best interests of the grandchild and whether the visitation would interfere with the parent-child relationship by looking at the personal contact that existed between the grandparents and the grandchild prior to applying for visitation rights. The district court will also take into consideration the reasons for which the parent is denying visitation.  No district court is going to award visitation rights to any grandparents who may be a bad influence on the child such as those that engage in criminal enterprises.

Outside of these limited circumstances grandparents do not have visitation rights to see their grandchildren.  The State of Minnesota is reluctant to get overly involved in a family’s business in how they choose to raise their children.  This area of law is ever-changing as grandparent issues arise and blended families include step-grandparents and step-grandchildren.  Anyone seeking rights to visitation should contact a family law attorney for advice specifically suited to their family situation.

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Kelly Klun joined by her legal team

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