Grandparent Visitation Rights In Minnesota

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?

Deceased parent

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.

Divorce

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.

Jason Kohlmeyer
Rosengren Kohlmeyer
Mankato, Minnesota
507-625-5000
www.MankatoFamilyLaw.com

About Jason Kohlmeyer

With over 14 years experience in high conflict family law cases, numerous awards, and frequent lecturer through both Minnesota and the United States on family law issues, Jason has decided to help folks through a blog, answering some of the most common questions that people have during divorce and family law cases

Comments

  1. This one just in via email:

    In a situation where I am no longer with the father, we have no custody agreement and were never married, can his parents obtain grandparents rights? I let them see the baby supervised on occasion, but never alone anymore, due to conflict in our relationship and the things they have said to me. I don’t want my son raised around people, who disagree with my beliefs and how I was raised and tell me that it doesn’t matter how I want to do things or how I think and that basically I do not get to decide what happens to my son.

    Thanks,
    Megan

    • Thanks for the comment Megan, The short answer is yes they can. There are a few different technical ways to go about it,but yes they can. Which is why I usually advise (although I don’t know any more than what I see written here) that you really try and work out with grandma and grandpa because you may very well push them into going to a lawyer to get some visitation rights.

      Jason

  2. Carlene Smith says:

    My daughter has depression, previous suicide attempts, single, expecting 2nd child, every time she becomes angry, she threatens to never let me see my grandchildren again, she also does this with other family members. How can I obtain visitation, please send info and fee’s of your services.

    Thank you,

    Carlene Smith

  3. My sister in law and her kids live with her parents for over 3yrs, she is divorced and suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness. Her parents take the kids to school, school activities and majority of all medical/dental appointments. My sister in law needs to be committed due to her illness. We’ve allowed her to say yes or no till now…her ex is threatening to take full custody of the kids and not allow any of us to have contact with the kids. Can he do that?? Do we as extend family members, especially her parents as the grandparents have any rights??

    • C.J.

      Good question, while there is a presumption in Minnesota that the biological parent does have priority over siblings or grandparents, that doesn’t mean that he can just cut the grandparents out. In a situation like this it’s a good idea to file for grandparent visitation and get a court order which will make sure they can be part of the kids lives. There is the possibility that they could get custody, but that would be harder. They should talk to a lawyer ASAP.

      -Jason

  4. My sons dads family only sees him once every 3 or 4 months, since his dad went to jail in October for violating his probation I’ve been having problems with them they call me out my name and threaten me we’re already dealing with Cps due to her sons record( hes a sex offender iI didn’t know until my son was one) is there anyway of keeping them from having rights. She also told her sons po that the whole family is sex addicted. What can I do.

    • Shae,

      Good question, well first if there are any threats you should call the police they can help. As for Grandparent rights, the grandparents would have to file a case to have any rights

  5. My daughter and grandson lived with me from the time of his birth, May 2011 until Sept. 2013. After that time, he was with me every weekend until Tuesday evenings when she would pick him up. Every other Friday, I picked him up from daycare and the other weeks she would bring him to me on Saturday at some time. She has now started a new job and he is in a different daycare. I know I have rights as a grandmother – my question is how often can I have visitation with him? Is there a set amount of time like there is in parents rights? The father is not involved and has no visitation rights at all so my family is the only family that my grandson knows.

    • Connie,

      Thanks for the question. There is no set definition of what constitutes normal grandparent visitation, so that means it really depends on your specific facts and the Judge that you draw. Some Judges say one day a month is appropriate while others will let you step in as the “missing” parent and you might get every other weekend, it’s just difficult to give you a black and white answer, sorry I hope this helps.

      Thanks for reading
      -Jason Kohlmeyer

  6. Beva Steinberg says:

    Hi Jason.
    My son and his girlfriend just had a baby. They were supposed to live with us for 30 days. She is Hmong and requires specific care for the first 30 days.
    I have always been there for my son ,I loaned him$ 900 for new breaks and many more things I have helped him with. I put his girlfriend on the lease because he had no money perhaps a job on occasion. He has been violent to me. I fear for her safety.
    She gets a monthly amount for some traumatic incident I believe ptsd. My don uses her money. He keeps her away from most people. I believe he is drinking and using drugs. I know my husbsnd and I can provide a stable home. And some stability for the child. We have no idea where they are living. Can you help? I would like access to my grandchild. Beva xxxxxxxx.

    • Beva,

      Thanks for the email, ok to answer your question. if your question is can you get custody of the child…it’s tough. Possible, but tough. you’ll need to show that the mother and your son are unfit and just him possibly using drugs won’t cut it. If the county has filed a CHIPS case (child in need of protective services) well that might be one route.

      I think the best route would be to file a 3rd party visitation action, that will at least allow you to see your grandchild. Then you’ll also be in a better position to report anything to social services that might be hurting the baby.
      -Jason

  7. Jason,
    My brother is in a difficult situation~ He was involved in a very messy divorce and custody battle with a wife who had abused the kids (convicted) and she died. That custody suit was obviously closed, but her mother and sister filed for visitation and my brother settled out of court with them to get every other weekend and many holidays. We were told after the fact that he gave them too much time for a grandparent, but he had poor representation at the time. It’s been about 2 years and they have done a lot to undermine him since. Telling the kids bad things about him, and trying to demand their visitation during times that would interfere with family time for him and the kids, and allowing them to watch inappropriate shows and movies that he requested they not do. He just recently found out that they have been taking the children on overnight trips to visit a friend of his late wife, a person she met and knew in prison and in a mental hospital. The children are uncomfortable and have asked repeatedly not to go, he has asked that they not be taken there as he doesn’t know this person and the children might be in danger there, but they continue to take them against their wishes. The last time was for a week and the kids were made to sleep with a dog that urinated inside the house and stepped on them throughout the night giving them multiple bruises and scrapes. He wants to go back to court to change the visitation agreement or strip them of visitation completely, but doesn’t know what to reasonably expect a judge to do. He is a disabled vet with some mental disabilities, but none that interfere with him being an excellent parent, but in the past, they have tried to use this against him. What should we do?

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    • Kelly,

      Thanks for the question. As a general rule you can always file a motion to modify visitation, he can do this and the Judge will take a look at what is in the best interest of the child and may very well reduce the grandparent visitation. That typically is done via motion and affidavit, meaning you don’t need to go to a full day trial. However, to cancel visitation, the grandparents are usually entitled to a full-blown hearing.

      Sorry to give you such vague answers, but these cases are very fact specific.

      Good luck,

      Jason

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