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Are visitation rights limited to parents?

Issues relating to Minnesota child custody are not limited to the rights of the parents. Several laws govern possible visitation rights for other individuals. For example, when a child's parent has died, the grandparents or great-grandparents on the side of the deceased parent may also seek reasonable visitation rights.

A court may grant reasonable visitation rights to the parents and grandparents of the deceased parent if these rights would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the relationship between the parent and the child. Courts have to consider the amount of personal contact between the deceased's relatives when ruling on this matter.

These rights may be considered in all family court proceedings for dissolution, custody, legal separation or parentage. When these motions are denied, courts cannot consider another motion for six months unless the parties agree in writing. A preponderance of evidence has to support a finding that visitation would interfere with the parent-child relationship.

If the child resided in another household with a person who is not a foster parent for at least two years, that person may also petition for reasonable visitation rights until the child becomes an adult. The court has to consider that visitation rights would be in the child's best interest, that the person and the child had emotional ties which established a parent-child relationship and visitation would not interfere with the relationship between the custodial parent and the child. The court also should consider the child's preference if the child is old enough to express a choice.

These rights do not apply where the child was adopted by a person who is not a stepparent or grandparent. However, grandparents of an adopted child may ask a court to grant visitation rights if the grandparent is the parent of the child's deceased parent, a decree of adoption terminated a parental relationship and the visitation would be in the child's best interest and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

A child custody dispute and visitation issues may be complicated and require the presentation of evidence in court proceedings. Legal representation can help assure that a party's rights are protected and courts help determine the child's best interest.

Source: The Minnesota Office of Revisor of Statutes, "257c.08-Rights of visitation to unmarried persons," Accessed June 6, 2016

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