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.

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Photo of Jason Brown Jason Brown

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003 after working for several years as an associate attorney in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with honors from Mankato State University in 1997 and the William Mitchell College of Law in 2000.

Jason has…

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. in 2003 after working for several years as an associate attorney in downtown Minneapolis. He graduated with honors from Mankato State University in 1997 and the William Mitchell College of Law in 2000.

Jason has successfully litigated against some of the more recognized family law attorneys in the Twin Cities. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters, and one of the Top 100 Family Law Attorneys in Minnesota by the Society of Legal Advocates.

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Jason serves as a mediator, and court-appointed early neutral evaluator, in divorce and family law cases throughout Minnesota. He frequently writes and speaks concerning divorce and family law issues, including several invitations to present seminars for the Minnesota Judicial Branch in St. Paul.

Beyond family law, Jason has represented hundreds of clients accused of a serious crime, including arson, fraud, unauthorized computer access, burglary, felony strangulation and obstruction of justice. He also provides estate planning services.

Local media appearances by Jason include WCCO Radio, KARE 11 Television, Fox 9 Television and WCCO Television. His national media appearances include NBC News, Time Magazine, USA Today and the Huffington Post.

Jason is the former chairperson of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota Trial Lawyer’s Association, and taught divorce and family law coursework within the paralegal program at North Hennepin Community College. He publishes the Minnesota Family Law Blog, which has been recognized as a “Top 25″ by the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Outside of the office, Jason enjoys playing the bass and electric guitar and spending time in the north woods of Wisconsin.


Areas of Practice
  • Divorce
  • Custody
  • Adoption
  • Restraining Orders
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Criminal Defense
  • Estate Planning
Notable Cases
  • Representation of Four Grandparents in Minnesota’s First Quad-Parenting Adoption
  • Representation of Client in Minnesota’s First Same-Sex Divorce
Bar Admissions
  • Minnesota State Bar, 2000
  • US District Court – District of Minnesota, 2002
Education
  • William Mitchell College of Law, 2000
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato, 1997
Joined Firm
  • 2003
Professional Associations & Activities
  • Minnesota State Bar Association
  • Presenter, Various CLE Courses
  • Monthly Columnist, Minnesota Lawyer Newspaper