Minnesota Family Law | Third-Party and Grandparent Visitation Rights

April 14, 2012

in Dakota County law blog, Dakota County Lawyer, Minnesota Supreme Court

Dakota County Grandparent Visitation - Flanders Law Firm LLCA new opinion was issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court related to third-party and grandparent visitation.  The reported opinion was Rohmiller v. Hart, A10-138 (Minn. 02/29/2012).

In the case, the mother of a two-year-old child was killed in an accident.  When the mother was killed, the child lived with the maternal grandparents in the State of Iowa.  The father of the child later gained custody of the child and moved the child to Minnesota.

After the father obtained custody, a maternal aunt (the deceased wife’s sister) and the maternal grandparents both brought an action in Minnesota to establish visitation right with the child.

A court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) recommended that the child continue to have contact with the aunt and the grandparents.  The district court granted the aunt and grandfather a monthly weekend visit, one week in the summer, two days each year for holidays, and a weekly telephone call.  The court decision also allowed the aunt to have contact with the child without the grandfather being present.

The father appealed the court ordered, arguing that the district court erred in granting any visitation right to the aunt and also arguing that the court allowed too much visitation for the grandfather.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirded the grant of visitaiton to the grandather vut reversed the grant of visitation to the aunt.  Subsequently, the aunt appealed that decision.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the father.  The Supreme Court rejected the aunt’s argument that granting visitation to her was correct under Minn. Stat. 257C.08 or, alternatively, under the court’s common law or equitable authority.

The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the statutes plain language specifically did not allow non-grandparent persons who have not been a caretaker for a child for at least two-years to have visitaiton rights with a child.  Furthermore, the common law did not support the aunt’s argument because she had never been “in loco parentis” to the child.  In loco parentis essentially means that the aunt would have had to have been a primary caretaker for the child for a length of time.

The Supreme Court also found that it did not need to decide whether distrct courts have equitable authority to grant visitation, over the objection of a fit parent, to a third party who has never stood in loco parentis to a child because the aunt acknowledged that the issue would be governed by the analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), and the district court had not applied a Troxel analysis when making its decision.

The decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court, in my mind, reaffirms that law that parents have the legal right to say what is in the best interest of their children unless a constitutional statute says that another party may be awareded visitation rights.  The law in the United States does not support third-party claims for visitation in very many circumstancs.  In this case, the aunt did not appear to meet any of those circumstances.


-This post was written by Joseph M. Flanders, an Apple Valley, MN  lawyer.

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Joseph Flanders of Flanders Law Firm LLC is a family law and estate planning lawyer. For further information, check out his website or you can contact him by sending an email

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

geri September 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Would like to know what I have to go to petition the courts for grandparent visitation. What would your charge be to do this? REGARDS GERI


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