Whether your child is going through a divorce, facing incarceration, or you have suffered the loss of a child, leaving behind a child of their own, you may be asking, “As a grandparent, do I have rights?” In North Dakota, grandparents have a legal right to request court-ordered visitation with their grandchild(ren) at any time, including during or after the child’s parents’ divorce/separation and/or after one of the parents’ deaths.
How do I Prove Grandparent Rights in Court?
Parents have a fundamental (constitutionally protected) right to determine who is around their children. However, a court may award a grandparent visitation against a parent’s wishes if certain criteria are met. While North Dakota has laws in place to help prevent grandparent alienation from the grandchild(ren), this decision is not made solely from the grandparents’ wishes. There are other factors the Court must take into consideration when determining the appropriateness of grandparent visitation. Despite the parents’ objections to the proposed visits, the proposal must:
- Serve the child(ren)’s best interests, considering the child(ren)’s health, safety, and general welfare; and
- Must not interfere with the parent-child(ren) relationship.
What Factors Establish Sufficient Evidence?
The grandparent seeking court-ordered visitation has the duty to provide sufficient evidence to establish the above-listed factors based upon:
- The child(ren)’s emotional ties with the parents and grandparents;
- The parents’ ability to properly care for the child(ren);
- The child(ren)’s developmental needs;
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved, including the parents and grandparents;
- The child(ren)’s preference (if interviewed by the Judge);
- History of domestic violence and/or abuse; and
- Any other evidence related to the wellbeing of the child(ren).
While an existing grandparent-grandchild(ren) relationship is not required to ask for visitation, if a grandparent has already spent quality time with their grandchild(ren), evidence of the close relationship can help show that the proposed visitation would be in the child(ren)’s best interests.
What if My Grandchild(ren)’s Parents were Never Married?
In North Dakota, a parent’s marital status does not impact a grandparents’ right to visitation.
How do I Begin the Process?
To begin the court-ordered visitation process, the grandparent will need to file a petition in the district court for the county where the child resides. The grandparent will then notify each party involved by sending a copy of the petition to the child(ren)’s parents, if applicable, and anyone else who may have requested custody or visitation. After the petition is filed, the Court may require the parties to attempt to come to an agreement in mediation before scheduling a hearing. If an agreement cannot be reached, the issue will go to a hearing or a trial, where the Judge will decide on the best interests of the child(ren).
It is important to have an experienced family law attorney answer your questions and help guide you through the process if you have concerns regarding grandparent rights.
Contact our specialized family law attorneys at Rosenquist Law Office at (701) 775-0654 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free consultation.
*The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as so.