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Do Grandparents Have Rights to Their Grandchildren?

Grandparents frequently wonder whether they have any right to visitation or custody over their grandchildren. Poor relationships with the parents, divorce, death, abuse and neglect can all affect whether grandparents are able to maintain a relationship with their minor grandchildren.

While there are no “grandparents’ rights” in Minnesota, grandparents can petition the court for visitation with or custody of their grandchildren.


Grandparents may be able to petition the court for visitation with their grandchildren. In order for the petition to be granted, the petitioner must show that visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interests, and it would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. This helps minimize the possibility that an abusive, neglectful or otherwise harmful adult will not be granted visitation with the child.

Visitation simply means the right to see the child. It does not give them decision-making power (legal custody).


A grandparent can also ask for third party custody, either as an interested third party or a de facto custodian.

To prove a grandparent is a de facto custodian, they must show that they have been the child’s primary caregiver. If the child is under three, they need to establish the child has lived with the caregiver for at least six months. If they’re older than three, they must have lived with the caregiver for at least a year. The petitioner must also prove that the parent has neglected to perform the duties of a parent-child relationship, like providing food, shelter, clothing, education and health services.

An interested third party must establish that the child’s parent has abandoned or neglected them, or otherwise will harm the child’s well-being. They can show that any danger to the child outweighs the prudence of maintaining the parent-child relationship, or that other extraordinary circumstances exist.

Grandparent visitation and custody can be complicated. For assistance, contact the compassionate child custody lawyers at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. in St. Paul, MN.

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