This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Marriage of:
Kristel Ann Hanson, petitioner,
David Allen Niesen,
Judith A. Hanson, intervenor,
Filed June 11, 2002
Wright County District Court
File No. F9983061
Brian M. Olsen, P.O. Box 988, Cokato, MN 55321 (for appellant)
Jeffrey L. Loftness, Loftness & Associates, P.A., 327 Marschall Road, Suite 370, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for respondent David Niesen)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
R. A. RANDALL, Judge
In this visitation dispute, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by reducing appellant’s visitation schedule with her grandchildren without a finding of endangerment or an evidentiary hearing. We affirm.
Kristel Hanson and respondent David Niesen are the parents of two minor children. The parents separated in 1993, and the children lived with their mother and grandmother, appellant Judith Hanson. Appellant was apparently the children’s primary caretaker for several years. In 1999, the court placed custody of both children with respondent and granted appellant visitation every third weekend.
In February 2001, appellant moved for custody, increased visitation, compensatory visits, and production of the children’s medical and school information. Respondent moved to terminate appellant’s visitation or require supervised visitation. The court appointed a guardian ad litem and held a hearing in July 2001.
Relying on the guardian ad litem’s report and the parties’ affidavits, the court found that the children love appellant and wish to see her but do not want to stay overnight at her house. The court also found that (1) the children reported that appellant disparages respondent and his wife in front of the children; (2) respondent stated that the children have behavior problems and do not sleep well after staying with appellant; (3) appellant’s actions in contacting the children’s school counselors, social workers, and county officials negatively affects the children by constantly involving them in custody, abuse, and neglect investigations; and (4) it is in the children’s best interests to limit appellant’s visits to one day per month, without overnight time.
The court ruled that appellant had failed to establish a prima facie case for modification and denied her motion for an evidentiary hearing. The court specified how often respondent had to inform appellant of the children’s school, church, and extracurricular activities and required giving notice of medical procedures. Finally, the court ordered that each party not speak negatively about the other in front of the children and advised appellant that her visitation could be terminated if shown not to be in the children’s best interests.
D E C I S I O N
The determination and enforcement of visitation rights are legal questions. Courey v. Courey, 524 N.W.2d 469, 471 (Minn. App. 1994). But the district court has broad discretion to determine the best interests of the child for visitation and will not be overturned absent abuse of discretion. Olson v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (Minn. 1995).
A court shall modify or deny parenting time when it would serve the child’s best interests, but the court must hold a hearing and make a finding of endangerment before restricting parenting time. Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 5 (Supp. 2001). Insubstantial modifications or adjustments of visitation do not require an evidentiary hearing and are appropriate if they serve the child’s best interests. Lutzi v. Lutzi, 485 N.W.2d 311, 316 (Minn. App. 1992).
Grandparent visitation may be ordered “under section 257.022, subdivision 2.” Minn. Stat. § 518.1752 (Supp. 2001). If a minor has lived with a grandparent for one year or more, the district court shall grant reasonable visitation to the grandparent if such visitation would be in the child’s best interests and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Minn. Stat. § 257.022, subd. 2a (2000). When addressing grandparent visitation, the court’s “paramount commitment [is] to the best interests of the children.” Olson, 534 N.W.2d at 549. Grandparent visitation is “a less critical decision” than custody and does not demand “the same level of factfinding required in custody determinations.” Id. at 550 n.5.
Appellant argues that the district court should not have reduced her visitation time with her grandchildren absent a finding of endangerment and an evidentiary hearing. However, the evidentiary-hearing requirements mandated by section 518.175, subdivision 5, apply to noncustodial parents. Grandparent visitation rights are governed by Minn. Stat. §§ 518.1752 and 257.022. See Foster v. Brooks, 546 N.W.2d 52, 54 (Minn. App. 1996) (explaining that, because section 518.1752 is “directed specifically to grandparent visitation, provisions included in the subdivisions only tangentially related to [section 518.1752] cannot be engrafted onto it.”).
Appellant contends that she and her husband obtained “substantive rights” by caring for their grandchildren and by intervening in the underlying action between the children’s parents. We appreciate appellant’s involvement and concern with her grandchildren, but section 257.022 addresses the only right appellant had, and that is as a grandparent, not a parent. That is, grandparents may petition the court for visitation, and—if in the grandchildren’s best interests and not disruptive of the parent-child relationship—the court shall grant it. The statute does not address modifying grandparent visitation. To the extent that section 257.022 could apply to modification of grandparent visitation, the court properly considered appellant’s rights and merely modified her existing visitation schedule to accommodate the children’s best interests.
Appellant suggests that she is a “de facto parent” of her grandchildren because she raised them for several years. We find nothing in the record designating her a "parent." Assuming for the sake of argument that section 518.175, subdivision 5, applied to this situation, the court still found that it would be in the children’s best interests to see appellant less often. The court cited, among other reasons, appellant’s disparaging remarks toward the children’s father as well as the negative emotional effect that overnight visits with appellant have on the children. The district court did not terminate appellant’s visitation time but simply reduced it from every third weekend to one day per month. Appellant’s visitation time has merely been adjusted, not abrogated.