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How are grandparents' visitation rights recognized in Minnesota?

Minnesota divorce and visitation issues often involve disputes between the parents over their rights to custody and other matters pertaining to their children. Child custody planning, however, should also incorporate rights legally afforded to grandparents in this state.

Minnesota's legislature reacted to the absence of grandparents' rights by enacting a law allowing them some visitation rights independent of the parent's wishes. The law also provides visitation rights to grandparents where the parents were never married.

Minnesota law provides grandparents with visitation rights to minor children after the commencement or any time after the completion of a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, custody, legal separation or parentage. The grandparents or a parent may request this visitation which may be mandated until the child is an adult.

There may be times when it is unclear what types of proceedings spark grandparents' rights. For example, the Minnesota Supreme Court had to rule on whether a Recognition of Parentage falls within this law in 2013.

In that 2013 case, the parents had executed and filed a ROP with a state agency identifying the child's father. The parents subsequently separated and the grandparents later filed a petition for grandparent visitation which was contested by one of the parents.

A ROP has the full force and effect of a legal judgment establishing parentage. The court noted that the state legislature issued a statement that the ROP should be important for all other purposes relating to the existence of the parent and child relationship. Accordingly, the Court held that a ROP is a proceeding which can give rise to grandparents' visitation rights.

Legal statutes, while apparently clear, often contain ambiguities requiring judicial intervention and legal advice. This ruling demonstrates the importance of legal assistance for determining grandparent visitation and other family law rights.

Source: Findlaw, "Christianson v. Henke," 831 N.W.2d 532 (Minn. 2013)," accessed Jan. 11, 2016

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