Grandparents are afforded various rights under Minnesota law, including the ability to seek custody or visitation with a grandchild. Grandparent adoption is another alternative. Certain thresholds must be established in order for a grandparent to have standing to seek a court order.

Your adult daughter is getting a divorce. Guess who’s likely to be spending more time with the grandchildren? The assumption may be intrusive, but it’s also natural; after all, in a time of crisis like this, to whom else can your daughter turn, especially when childcare becomes an instant need? More importantly, how can you provide needed support for your daughter during her Minnesota divorce, as well as support for your grandchildren, without upending your own life? The following grandparent’s guide provides some helpful, common-sense tips.

Exercise active support and patience in the short-term

The days immediately following your daughter’s split from her spouse are likely to be filled with turmoil—not just the emotional fallout with her and with the grandkids, but also with the stresses of becoming a newly single parent and all that entails. Now is the time to provide as much support as you can until the family can regain its footing. You may be called upon to babysit more frequently while your daughter juggles a job and the many details surrounding a divorce. There may be no need to offer words of advice at this time; the best support you can offer is to be present and available.

Maintain a consistent front with your daughter for the grandchildren

As you spend more time with your grandchildren, you can expect them to ask some questions as they continue to process the reality of divorce. Confer with your daughter to learn how she has broken the news to the children so your answers can be neutrally supportive, consistent with what their mother has told them. If you are unsure how to answer, defer to their mother. You may have strong feelings about the ex, but now is not the time to share that information with the children.

Acknowledge that the arrangement is temporary

While offering extra support in the short-term, you are within your rights to emphasize that this additional help is temporary until she finds her feet. As an adult, your daughter needs to figure out how to move forward as a single parent, including setting up a more permanent solution for childcare. Don’t be afraid to say no to babysitting requests if you need a break or have other plans, and don’t be pressured to set aside any long-term plans for your “golden years.” You aren’t being selfish by drawing healthy boundaries—in fact, you are empowering your daughter to regain her self-sufficiency for the long run.

One of the biggest reasons second marriages end in divorce is conflict between step-parents and children from the previous marriage. If you want your blended family to succeed, foster a positive relationship between the kids and the step-parent. Consider implementing the following tips and ideas:

1. Create a culture of respect. The family unit can’t get along as a unit unless the individual members love and respect each other. To foster those feelings, allow the step-parent some one-on-one time with each child, so everyone can get to know each other better. Schedule a half-hour outing for the step-parent and step-child each week (a trip to the ice cream parlor, a shopping spree, or a trip to park).

2. Buckle in for the emotional roller coaster. Children experiencing major life transitions are emotional. Allow the outbursts to occur. Instead of reacting, make eye contact, and listen to the child vent. Even small things like dropped candy bars and routine activities can be frustrating. Learn to listen to the frustrations (and the deeper needs and feelings behind them) without feeling like you need to fix them or alter coping strategies.

3. Get it off your chest – constructively. Parents and step-parents need to vent, too. Find a confidante outside the family (e.g. a therapist or a patient friend) to work through your own feelings about what’s happening. Don’t complain about the ex or your parenting frustrations in front of the children.

4. Participate in activities that unite the family. You don’t want to leave anyone out. Blended families face challenges when parents and their biological children go off together to do their own thing. That can be great for their relationships, but if the step-parent can never be included in your activities together with your children, tension will inevitably follow. Relieve that tension by finding things all of you can do together.

5. If possible, involve the other parent in solutions. Too many times, parents and step-parents speak negatively about the other parent in front of children. That badmouthing will cause unnecessary tension and even lead to charges of parental alienation. If the other parent isn’t meeting your needs, involve him or her in a solution. Empty complaining won’t make your situation better. And, again, keep negative, derisive comments about the other parent to yourself and away from the children.

Ask your family law questions in a private consultation with one of our Minnesota family law attorneys by calling 763-323-6555 today.

After an intergenerational fight, a divorce or, worse yet, the death of an adult child, grandparents worry about their rights to see and protect their grandchildren. Whether you’re convinced that your son-in-law is neglecting or hitting your grandchild or failing to feed her nutritious food; or you’ve become estranged with your daughter after a bitter fight about family money, but you still want to play a constructive role in the life of your grandchild, you face significant obstacle, legal and otherwise.

Minnesota law does provide grandparents with specific, limited rights over their grandchildren. Depending on the circumstances, grandparents can even directly seek relief from the courts to spend time with their grandchildren, if the parents refuse permission.

Here’s a primer on important details about these rights:

Previous Living Arrangements

If the child previously lived with the grandparents for at least one year, they can file a request for visitation with the courts, if and when the child’s parents remove the child from the grandparents. The courts will consider the best interests of the child, as long as the visitation does not interfere with the relationship between the parents and child.

Additional Visitation Rights Explained

Grandparents also can advocate for the right to visitation when the grandparent is either the parent of a child’s deceased parent or a parent whose rights were terminated through adoption. Again, this arrangement can only happen if the court agrees that the visitation is in the child’s best interest and if the visitation does not interfere with the relationship between the child and the parents.

Factors the Court Considers When Evaluating Grandparental Rights

The court places a high priority on the best interests of the child and tends to favor parental rights over grandparental rights, all things being equal. When determining whether to grant grandparents visitation or custody (e.g. in cases in which a parent stands accused of abuse/neglect or criminal behavior), the courts will review the following:

•    The grandparents’ level of involvement in the child’s life.
•    The relationship between the child and the grandparents.
•    The grandparents’ ability to care for the child and provide a nurturing, safe environment.

Even if a visitation petition is denied, grandparents have the right to refile a petition after six months or even sooner, if the parents agree in writing.

Limits on Grandparent Rights

If the parents are married without conflict, and the children reside with the parents, grandparents do not have legal rights to visitation. Visitation laws come into effect when the parents decide to divorce or separate. Grandparents can file a visitation petition any time during this process or after it is final until the child turns 18.