Efficient, Experienced Family Law Collaboration And Representation

Helping Grandparents Protect Their Connection With Their Grandchildren

When parents divorce and create a custody agreement, other members of the family are usually left out. Many times, grandparents are blocked, intentionally or unintentionally, from seeing their grandchildren. However, the state of Minnesota statutorily provides alternatives for grandparents or other interested third parties.

At Meinerts Law Office, P.A., in Burnsville, Minnesota, attorney Merlyn Meinerts helps grandparents obtain temporary or permanent visitation or custodial rights. He uses his extensive family law experience to help them understand their rights under Minnesota law, guide them through this process and make informed decisions at every stage.

Can A Grandparent Have Visitation With A Grandchild 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-plus 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 well-being.

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.

Can A Grandparent Seek Custody Of Their Grandchild?

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 well-being; 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.

Learn More About Your Rights Today

Are you a grandparent seeking visitation or custody of your grandchild? An experienced family law attorney is ready to help you. Call Meinerts Law Office, P.A., at 952-208-8500 or contact the firm online to take the first step toward protecting this important relationship with a free consultation.