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Minnesota Grandparents’ Rights: Visitation and Custody in the Twin Cities

Getting to watch your grandchildren grow up is one of life’s distinct pleasures. As a grandparent, you probably also feel a responsibility to see that your grandchildren are safe and well taken care of. Fortunately, under Minnesota law, you have legal rights as a grandparent that can not only help ensure you get to see your grandkids, but will also allow you to petition for custody if it becomes necessary.

Grandparents Rights in Minnesota

Visitation is available to grandparents under Minnesota Statutes 257C.08. Grandparents seek visitation of a grandchild if:

  • the parent of the child is deceased
  • a family court proceeding involving the child, such as a custody battle, has commenced or has been completed, or
  • the child has resided with the grandparents for 12+ months

A Minnesota court will only grant a grandparent visitation if doing so is in the best interests of the child and will not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Factors a court will consider in determining whether to grant visitation to grandparents include the amount of previous contact between the grandparents and the child, the child’s wishes, and anything else the court considers relevant to the child’s wellbeing.

Seeking Child Custody As a Grandparent in Minnesota

For a variety of reasons, a grandparent may decide visitation is not enough. Custody involves the legal right to manage a child’s day-to-day activities as well as the right to make important decisions for the child. In Minnesota, grandparents may typically seek custody of grandchildren under one of two scenarios.

If a grandparent is a “de facto custodian” of the child, he or she may seek custody under Chapter 257C of Minnesota Statutes. A de facto custodian is someone who has lived with the child and acted as a primary caregiver for the child for a certain amount of time while there has been a demonstrated and consistent lack of participation by a parent. Minnesota courts will look at many factors to determine whether a grandparent qualifies as a de facto custodian, such as the circumstances of the parent’s absence, the amount of involvement the parent had with the child during the parent’s absence and the intent of the parent or parents in placing the child with the grandparent.

Alternately, grandparents may seek custody as “interested third parties.” In order to do so successfully, grandparents must show by clear and convincing evidence that the child will suffer harm by living with the parent due to the likelihood of abandonment, neglect or other disregard for the child’s wellbeing; that placement of the child with them takes priority over preserving the day-to-day parent-child relationship because of the presence of physical and/or emotional danger; or that other extraordinary circumstances exist warranting placement of the child with them. Of course, the court will consider the child’s relationship with the interested third parties as well as his or her relationship with the parents in setting custody arrangements.

Meeting the definition of a de facto custodian or an interested third party is only the first hurdle for a grandparent seeking custody; in custody decisions, the court’s priority is always the best interests of the child. The grandparents will be able to secure a custody decision in their favor if, and only if, the court finds that the grandparents have standing to ask for custody and that the child would be better off with them.

Get in Touch with a Twin Cities Family Law Attorney

Your grandchildren are your direct descendants; nothing is more natural than the love you feel for them. Yet, when someone is getting in the way of you seeing your grandkids, or they are not being well taken care of, your ability to uphold your duties as a grandparent depends on making strong legal arguments.

If you need to enforce your visitation rights, or if you wish to seek custody of a grandchild, an experienced family law attorney can help you. Talk to a local family law attorney today to learn more about grandparent visitation and custody under Minnesota law.