The State of Minnesota has a statute that protects the continuation of a grandparent-grandchild relationship. A grandparent who finds him/herself cut off from contact with a grandchild can bring a motion before the court for visitation to restore that contact. A court may grant reasonable grandparent visitation upon finding that visitation would be in the best interests of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. But a grandparent should act quickly to secure their rights.
The Statute Protects the Continuation of the Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship, Not the Creation of a Brand-New Relationship
By statute, the court is required to consider the amount of personal contact between the child and grandparent prior to the request for visitation. A significant lapse in the grandparent-grandchild relationship will result in a denial of grandparent visitation. While the statute does not define what constitutes a “significant lapse,” the Minnesota Supreme Court has held 4 years without contact to be significant. However, this holding does not automatically mean anything less than 4 years is insignificant. The unique facts of each case must be evaluated in their entirety to determine whether a motion for grandparent visitation is likely to be successful. It is important that a grandparent wanting to restore a severed relationship with their grandchild act quickly. The time that passes weighs against the grandparent regardless of who is at fault for the lapse in contact.
The Parent-Child Relationship Comes First
The courts consider the parent-child relationship paramount, and it is the burden of the grandparent requesting visitation to prove by clear and convincing evidence that visitation will not interfere with the custodial parent’s relationship with the child. This can be somewhat tricky considering that a motion for grandparent visitation generally arises after a custodial parent has cut off the grandparent from the grandchild. However, because the parent-child relationship is considered the most important bond to protect in this situation, it is important that a grandparent requesting visitation does not demonstrate a lack of respect for the custodial parent. If the court finds grandparent visitation will interfere with the parent’s relationship with their child, the grandparent’s request will be denied.
The Visitation Requested Must be Reasonable
The grandparent visitation statute is intended to protect a child’s right to know his/her grandparent. It does not provide a grandparent the ability to seek “parenting time” or to act as a stand-in parent. There is no concrete line that distinguishes reasonable from unreasonable visitation requests, and what is considered reasonable may vary based on the specific facts of each case. In general, a request for grandparent visitation that is similar to a parenting time schedule, such as every other weekend and one weeknight visit a week, would be considered excessive and unreasonable.
Grandparent Visitation Must be in the Best Interests of the Child
Grandparent visitation will only be granted if the court finds it would be in the best interests of the child. When determining what is in a child’s best interests, the court is required to give special weight to the determination of a fit parent to deny grandparent visitation. This means that if the custodial parent opposes visitation, the grandparent must overcome the assumption that the parent is acting in the child’s best interests by denying visitation.
Navigating a motion for grandparent visitation can be complicated, but you do not have to go at it alone. The family law attorneys at Rinke Noonan are experienced in grandparent visitation matters and can advise you on the strength of your case and assist you with the legal process. If you find yourself suddenly cut off from your grandchild, we are here to help.
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