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High court rules on third-party visitation

The Minnesota Supreme Court today struck down as unconstitutional a portion of the visitation statute that places the burden on a custodial parent to prove that visitation by an interested third-party would interfere with the parent-child relationship.

Marilyn Johnson and Nancy SooHoo ended a 22-year relationship in the fall of 2003. During that time, Johnson adopted two children from China. SooHoo did not adopt either child but the couple co-parented the children and recognized themselves as a family unit. SooHoo sought visitation rights. A Hennepin County District Court judge awarded SooHoo visitation.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court judge’s decision, and the Minnesota Supreme Court today affirmed that decision.

However, in a portion of the decision not affecting the visitation award in the present case, the high court found the burden of proof is be on the party seeking visitation to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the visitation will not interfere with the parent-child relationship.

The 20-page decision is SooHoo v. Johnson.

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