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Grandparents Rights to Visitation
Grandparents often envision their golden years spent by happily caring for and treating their grandchildren. In recent years, as a symptom of our skyrocketing divorce rates, much litigation has occurred when grandparent’s are prevented from seeing their grandchildren. As a direct result, today all states have statues authorizing a court to award visitation to a grandparent under certain circumstances.
In Minnesota, a district court has broad discretion to determine what is in the best interests of a child regarding visitation. The authority of the Court to consider grandparents when making visitation decisions with regard to Grandparents is spelled out in Minnesota Statute 257.022, subd. 2 (1994). This statute specifically allows the district court to consider a request (by petition) for grandparent visitation if the grandparents are the parents of a deceased parent of the child. It states that:
If a parent of an unmarried minor child is deceased, the parents and grandparents of the deceased parent may be granted reasonable visitation rights to the unmarried minor child during minority by the district court upon finding that visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child and would not interfere with the parent child relationship. The court shall consider the amount of personal contact between the parents or grandparents of the deceased parent and the child prior to the application. during or after proceedings for dissolution of the child’s parents’ marriage, child custody, legal separation, annulment, or paternity; or if the grandchild has resided with the grandparents or great-grandparents for a period of twelve months or more and is subsequently removed by the child’s parents. Visitation must be found to be in the best interest of the child. M.S.A. 257.022.
Moreover Minnesota’s divorce statute also allows grandparents to file a petition for visitation as a separate action outside of a divorce, paternity action or legal separation. Minnesota’s divorce statute includes visitation within its definition of custody providing:
In a court of this state which has jurisdiction to decide child custody matters, a child custody proceeding is commenced: (b) by a person other than a parent, where a decree of dissolution has been entered or where none is sought by filing a petition or motion seeking visitation of the child in the county where the child is permanently resident. A person seeking visitation pursuant to this paragraph must qualify under section 257.022.
Minn. Stat. 518.156, subd. 1(b) (emphasis added).
If a motion for grandparent visitation has been heard and denied, unless agreed to in writing by the parties, no subsequent motion may be filed within six months after disposition of a prior motion on its merits.
When custody is in dispute, a Minnesota court issues a custody order that is in the "best interests of the child." Joint custody will only be awarded if parents have shown the court that they are willing and able to cooperate. A court also examines several factors with the child's welfare in mind. They include (1) the child's preference, (2) each parent's health, (3) the child's health and whether any special needs exist, (4) each parent's relationship with the child, (5) which parent has been the child's primary caretaker, (6) each parent's ability to provide a stable environment for the child, (7) any history of domestic violence or child abuse and (8) any allegations of abuse.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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