Most people do not know that certain grandparents have a right to visit their grandchildren under Minnesota law. Under Minnesota Statute § 257C.08, if one of the child’s parents are deceased, if the child has lived with you (the grandparent) for twelve months or more, or if the child is involved in a family court proceeding such as a custody, paternity, or divorce case, a court can order grandparent visitation with a minor child. However, visitation may only be ordered if (1) visitation rights would be in the best interests of the child[1]; and (2) such visitation would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Thus, in order to be successful in petitioning the Court for grandparent visitation, a grandparent would need to explain why visitation is in the child’s best interests, referring to the best interest factors in Minnesota Statute § 518.17, in addition to explaining how and why visitation would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. The statute also notes that “[t]he Court shall consider the amount of personal contact between the parents or grandparents of the party and the child . . .”

The amount of visitation time between grandparents and grandchild is deemed reasonable varies based on the circumstances. If you are an extremely  involved grandparent who historically sees their grandchild every week or multiple times per week, you may feel comfortable requesting visitation as often as every other weekend. Others feel it is reasonable to request visitation once per month or even only during the summer or on the child’s school breaks. School breaks may be a more realistic option for grandparents who do not live near their grandchildren.

Grandparent visitation is separate than a grandparent filing for third party custody to obtain custody over a grandchild. The latter action usually stems from a situation where the grandparent believes their grandchild is at a risk of neglect or endangerment. A petition for grandparent visitation, on the other hand, does not necessitate an allegation that the grandchild is in any sort of danger with their parent—rather, it simply involves asking the Court to find that it is in the child’s best interest to have visits with the grandparent.

If you have questions about grandparent visitation or grandparent custody, contact the family law attorneys at Heimerl & Lammers today at (612) 294-2200.

[1] The best interests of the child can be found in Minnesota Statute § 518.17: