Your kids are grown, married, and have moved away, and now they’re having children of their own. It should be time to enjoy having the house to yourself and visiting your grandkids. But what if something unexpected goes wrong in this plan? Maybe your son passes away unexpectedly, and your daughter-in-law (whom, in all honesty, you never liked much anyway) suddenly decides she doesn’t want you spending time with your grandchildren. How can you maintain a close relationship with your grandchild?
Fortunately, Minnesota law provides a vehicle for grandparents to obtain visitation rights in the situation above or in a few other limited instances. In situations where one of the child’s parents has died, the grandparents (or even great-grandparents) on that side of the family may petition a court for visitation rights. The rights may be granted if the court finds that visitation would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
In making its determination, the court will consider the amount of personal contact between the grandparent and the grandchild, so if you are the grandparent seeking visitation, be prepared to present evidence in the form of testimony about things like outings you have taken with the child, times you have babysat the child, or maybe even your help with taking the child to doctor and dental appointments and after-school activities. You could also consider showing the court any letters written between you and the child or gifts the child has given you.
While the objection of the surviving parent will not be enough, on its own, to make the court deny visitation rights to a grandparent, the court also will not award a grandparent visitation simply because the grandparent has had a relationship with the child at some point. For example, in one case, grandparents were not entitled to visitation when it had been seven years since their last contact with the grandchildren, and the grandchildren strenuously voiced their objection to visitation with the grandparents.
Grandparents can also request visitation rights as part of the parents’ divorce, custody, separation, annulment, or parentage proceedings. The court will consider the same issues and make the same analysis as described above for situations where one of the parents is deceased. However, although there may be many of these proceedings if the parents are involved in an acrimonious divorce, note that once a motion for grandparent visitation has been heard and denied, no subsequent motion may be filed within six months, unless the parties involved agree otherwise in writing.
Providing care for the child
Another situation in which grandparents can request visitation rights is if the child has resided with the grandparents for 12 months or more and the parents then remove the child from the grandparents’ home. Again, in this situation, the court will consider whether grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child and whether visitation would interfere with the parent-child relationship.
Any comments or question feel free to email me at Jason Kohlmeyer.