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Grandparents’ visitation case gets to North Dakota Supreme Court

| May 7, 2014 | Family Law |

Family dynamics can be complicated, and often dysfunction can span multiple generations. The North Dakota Supreme Court has determined that, at least in one case, parents have the right to determine how much their children’s grandparents can see them.

The unanimous ruling by North Dakota’s high court overturned a ruling by a Grand Forks District Court judge who ruled against a man and his partner in favor of his parents. They said that the district judge’s view of the law was “clearly erroneous.” The parents claimed they had not allowed voluntary visits with their grandchildren since 2011.

That district judge said that the parents had not shown that allowing the children to visit their grandparents would harm them. Therefore, he allowed visitations on birthdays, holidays and summer vacations. Further, he ruled that the oldest child could see her grandparents whenever she wished.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the level of visitation granted was comparable to what non-custodial parents receive and that grandparents did not have legal rights to that kind of access. Further, it ruled that the burden of proof that been unfairly placed on the parents rather than the grandparents.

The children’s father said that there was tension between his parents and his partner and him that was exacerbated by his parents’ visits with their children. He said that these visits undermined their parenting.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court to readdress the visitation terms. The couple and their children now live in Oregon, so the visitation issue will need to be readdressed anyway, the justices noted.

In making their decision, the Supreme Court justices referenced a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2000. Although that case established the right of grandparents to visit their grandchildren, it also said that courts should presume that parents had their children’s best interests at heart when determining that right for their own children.

Fortunately, most of us don’t have such seriously flawed family dynamics that legal intervention is required to determine how often grandparents can see their grandchildren. However, when it is, North Dakotan residents can seek the advice and assistance of family law attorneys who can help them fight for what they believe is in the best interest of the children involved.

Source: The Jamestown Sun, “N.D. Supreme Court overturns grandparent visitation ruling” Emily Welker, May. 01, 2014

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