Even with sky high divorce rates across the country, grandparents’ rights are often overlooked and frequently are not taken into consideration within custody negotiations. The same lack of attention may be prevalent in a situation where one parent dies, and the remaining parent refuses contact between the child and his or her grandparents. While the state of North Dakota has laws in place to prevent grandparents from being alienated from grandchildren, the decision is not made on grandparents’ wishes alone. There are other factors a court must take into consideration when determining whether grandparent visitation is appropriate.
For example, the court will take a close look at the past personal contact between the grandparents and the child to determine whether it is positive relationship. The same will be considered regarding the relationship between the child’s parents and the grandparents. North Dakota family courts must presume that a child’s parent is considering the child’s best interests when making visitation allowances or disallowances. If grandparents disagree with that decision, then the burden of proof falls on them to show that visitation should be allowed and would be beneficial to the child.
Grandparents may request visitation before, during, or after a divorce, but they should not generally expect a court to order full, unrestricted visitation at first. Sometimes a home study will be requested for the children to express their own wishes, prior to any decision being made. Even then, if the court does allow grandparent visitation, there is a chance that it will come with conditions and restrictions.
Other situations, such as the death of a child with the surviving parent refusing visitation, or the adoption of the grandchild by a stepparent, each have unique considerations as well. Any grandparent in North Dakota considering requesting a court to grant visitation rights would benefit from consulting a family law attorney first.