Grandparent visitation case reaches state's Supreme Court

In a high-profile child custody case in Minnesota's neighbor to the west, a couple was ordered by a judge to allow their kids to spend time with their grandparents. Now, the parents of the children are appealing the case to the North Dakota Supreme Court, arguing that the grandparents should not be allowed visitation under the unusual custody decree. The ruling in a lower court requires the parents to allow their teenaged daughter to visit her grandparents whenever she likes. The two younger children also have allocated visitation days with their paternal grandparents.

The parents argue that the custody agreement is patently unfair because their teenager will be protected from doing chores and facing disciplinary consequences; instead, she can simply head to her grandparents' home. Those visitation terms effectively compromise their relationship with their own child, they say, which lessens their influence and parental authority.

The parents have not been abiding by the judge's orders to allow their children to spend time with their grandparents on designated holidays. The judge was prepared to hold the couple in contempt for failing to follow judicial orders, but he decided to defer that decision until other legal hearings were completed. The judge wrote in his decision that the two couples should work together to create a family that would serve the best interests of the children instead of requiring the courts to intervene at every turn. The case is slated for trial before the Supreme Court, but a formal date has not yet been set.

This case is unusual because grandparents are not generally granted separate custody rights within a visitation agreement. In fact, most family law tends to favor biological parents. This is a landmark case that could affect the outcome of many future child custody cases both in the Minnesota area and beyond.

Source:, "Grandparent visitation case appealed to ND Supreme Court" Emily Welker, Nov. 29, 2013

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