The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently overturned a 2009 visitation decision that granted a grandmother visitation rights similar to those typically granted to a non-custodial parent. In its opinion, the court explained that the arrangement was more appropriate for a parent, not a grandparent, and that the arrangement interfered with the custodial parent's relationship with his son.
The Minnesota statute that governs non-custodial visitation rights contains two stipulations regarding granting visitation for non-parent relatives. First, the visitation schedule cannot interfere with the relationship between the custodial parent and the child. Second, the visitation arrangements must be in the best interests of the child. If these two requirements are met, visitation rights may be granted to grandparents and former custodial guardians. Since determining what constitutes interference with the parent-child relationship and the best interests of a child are open to debate, third party visitation is an area rife with litigation.
The provisions of the statute were recently challenged in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In 2009, Anthony Darst was granted full custody of his four-month old son, whose mother was brutally murdered by a former boyfriend. The district court granted the boy's maternal grandmother, Roxanne Givens, visitation rights under the visitation rights statute, including two nights a week and every other weekend. Darst opposed this much visitation and appealed the lower courts decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Givens and Darst have a history of personal acrimony.
This June, the Court of Appeals the 2009 decision. In his appeal, Darst claimed that Givens' time with Darst's son interfered with Darst's relationship with his child. Under the visitation arrangement, for example, Darst was unable to take his son out of town for more than four days at a time due to Givens' visitation schedule. The Court of Appeals ruled in Darst's favor, explaining that Givens' visitation arrangement was more appropriate for a parent than a grandparent. The court ordered Darst to propose a visitation plan that includes time for Givens to spend with her grandson.
As this recent case demonstrates, determining visitation rights is a sensitive and emotional process. It is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who knows the nuances of the visitation laws in the state of Minnesota if you or a loved one are in a disagreement with another family member over visitation rights.