Grandparents’ Rights After Divorce: Protecting Your Relationship
One of the most difficult issues that any divorcing couple faces is how to handle division of child custody. Most parents naturally want as much time as possible with their children. Therefore, the thought of giving up time – even the smallest amount – can be difficult.
What often gets lost in the custody conversation are the rights that grandparents may have to spend time with their grandchildren. Especially when children are placed primarily in the custody of one parent, certain grandparents may find that their access to their grandchildren is very limited. In order to protect the relationship they have, some grandparents may need to petition for visitation rights.
When Do You Have The Right To See Your Grandchildren?
In Minnesota, the law does recognize certain specific rights for grandparents, although they are not nearly as comprehensive as the rights granted to parents. In Minnesota, grandparents may petition for visitation rights under three particular circumstances:
- If their adult-child dies or had parental rights terminated through adoption
- During divorce, separation, or custody proceedings
- If the child had previously been living with the grandparents for a year or more, and was removed from the house by a parent
Under the first scenario, grandparents may only petition for visitation rights after an adoption if the adoption is by a stepparent. If the adoption is by an entirely new family, Minnesota courts have held that grandparents no longer have any right to visitation.
Traditionally, grandparent visitation rights applied only when the parents at issue were married. However, since 2013, the Minnesota courts have allowed grandparents to seek visitation for children born outside of a marriage – if the unmarried parents are willing to sign a Recognition of Parentage document that establishes their parental relationship.
Court Considerations In Recognizing Grandparent Rights
Like most other custody proceedings, or any proceeding involving a child, the court is guided by what is in the child’s best interest. In making this determination, Minnesota courts typically look to the relationship between the child and the grandparents, how involved the grandparents have been in the child’s life, and whether the grandparents are in a position to fully support the child.
Where grandparents assert rights that are in conflict with a parent – such as when a grandparent wants frequent visitation and a parent disagrees – the courts typically give a great deal of deference to the parent’s position. For this reason, it is easiest to get grandparent visitation when parents support the request.
Similarly, when considering how much time to award grandparents in visitation, Minnesota courts will typically look to how custody and visitation are awarded to other parties. Except in extraordinary circumstances, courts will usually not grant grandparents more extensive visitation than the child’s parents receive. Indeed, courts have reversed orders giving grandparents too much visitation time.
Minnesota Attorneys Helping You Fight For Time With Your Loved Ones
If your child is going through a divorce and you’re concerned about the impact it will have on your relationship with your grandchildren, or your time with your grandchildren has recently been limited or cut-off, you may want to consider a petition for visitation rights. At Collins, Buckley, Sauntry & Haugh, PLLP, our family law attorneys will vigorously defend your rights in the courtroom and work with you to protect the relationships you hold dear. For more information contact us online, or at 651-968-0969.