Minnesota's Family Law Blog

The Importance of Grandparents in Divorce: A Deeper Look at Minnesota’s Approach

Two grandparents spending quality time with their grandchildren in a park. The grandmother is seated on a bench, reading a book to a young girl with pigtails, while the grandfather flies a kite with a young boy nearby. The scene is set in a lush green park on a sunny day, evoking a sense of joy and familial closeness

Divorce is more than a legal dissolution between two people; it significantly impacts entire families across generations. The current situation affects not just immediate family members but also grandparents. Grandparents play a crucial role in providing stability and emotional support to their grandchildren during these turbulent times. The ripple effect of the situation extends to them as well.

Effects of Divorce on Generations.

Divorce can sometimes be seen as an intergenerational issue, meaning that it can affect not only the two people married but also their children and extended family, this can be . The involvement of grandparents can provide a critical support system. Grandparents often bring a sense of continuity and stability, offering love and care to children shaken by the changes within their nuclear family.

Grandparents’ Rights in Minnesota

In Minnesota, the significance of maintaining grandparent-grandchild relationships is recognized legally under certain conditions. Minnesota statutes allow grandparents to seek reasonable visitation rights, particularly when such interaction serves the best interests of the child and does not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Such rights are considered during various family court proceedings, including divorce, custody, legal separation, annulment, or parentage cases. One fun fact is that Parenting Time is not the phrase we use but “visitation” when we talk about grandparents rights.

It’s important to note that Family Law attorneys in Minnesota should be able to help you, but when you start asking questions you’ll want to see, have they done a Third-Party case before? (this is the techincal term for grandparent’s rights? If they have they’ll explain how you have to intervene and petition the court and serve both of the custodial parents in order to get your day in court.

The court evaluates several factors to determine the necessity of grandparent visitation. Primary considerations include the prior relationship between the grandparents and the child, and whether ongoing contact would be in the child’s best interests. Specifically, if a child has lived with their grandparents for a period exceeding twelve months, this history significantly influences the court’s decision to grant visitation rights following the child’s removal from the grandparents’ home.

So, What Right Does A Grandparent Have for Visitation?

In Minnesota, grandparents’ do have rights to visitation and they are specifically addressed in Minn. Stat. § 257C.08. This statute provides a framework for grandparents to seek visitation rights under certain conditions, focusing on the best interests of the child and ensuring that these rights do not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

Key Provisions for Grandparent Visitation Rights:

General Right to Visitation:

  1. Grandparents can request visitation rights if it is in the best interests of the child and does not interfere with the parent-child relationship. This can be pursued during various family proceedings such as divorce, legal separation, or other custody-related matters.

Visitation After Parental Death or Relationship Termination:

  1. Grandparents may also seek visitation rights if one of the parents has died or if there has been a termination of the parental rights of the child’s parent who is the child of the grandparents.

Consideration of Prior Relationship:

  1. When evaluating a request for grandparent visitation, the court considers the previous relationship between the grandparents and the child, the amount of contact, and any existing emotional ties.

Circumstances Under Which Visitation May Be Requested:

  • If the child has lived with the grandparents for a period of 12 months or more.
  • If the grandparents’ child (the parent of the grandchild) has passed away.
  • During proceedings for divorce, custody, or paternity where the familial relationships may be redefined.
  • The court must find that the visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child.
  • Visitation rights should not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
  • Grandparents must formally request visitation through a motion in family court.

These provisions reflect an understanding of the significant role grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren, especially during or following times of familial change or stress. The law balances the need to maintain these beneficial relationships with the necessity to uphold the rights and duties of parents.

Some Examples I’ve seen with Grandparent’s Rights

In Minneapolis,I represented a grandmother who was trying to see her granddaughter. The grandmother, with her lifetime of memories and stories, hoped to secure just one weekend each month to develop their relationship. The case was tough, filled with legal complexities and emotional turmoil that spilled over into the proceedings.

We ended up winning, and the court granted the grandmother one weekend each month and a few special holidays to spend with her grandchild. It was pretty unpleasant, but I know my client really was happy to get those weekends.

Another example I can relate was in Jackson County, where Grandparents living in Texas, separated by vast distances from their grandson, came forward seaking time to nurture their relationship with him. They requested two weeks each summer and one week every quarter—an ambitious ask at firs, but one that really spoke about their desire to be a part of their grandson’s growth and let him get to know them.

We ended up winning that one as well, which was a bit tricky with the distances involved, but the Court did finally decide it was important to foster that relaionship.

Each case is unique of course, but talking about these two cases can give you some guidance about what the Court will often do in a Grandparentt’s custody/visiation case.

Conclusion: Balancing Interests in Family Dynamics

While parental rights are paramount, Minnesota law provides a mechanism for grandparents to remain involved in their grandchildren’s lives post-divorce, under circumstances that prioritize the children’s best interests. This approach aims to balance the fundamental rights of parents with the recognized benefits that grandparents can offer in providing continuity and emotional support to children navigating the challenges of divorce.

Minnesota’s laws recognize that children’s well-being can be influenced by more than just their parents. They also consider the impact of their extended family. This shows an understanding that a child’s welfare is not solely dependent on their parents. Grandparents’ rights re acknowledged in Minnesota’s laws.

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