Fit parents do not have to allow their children to visit grandparents, the North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled.

Diane Bjerke and her husband, Robert, sued their son, Cory, and the children's mother, Naomi Sterf, in 2012 in Grand Forks for visitation rights with the couple’s three children after a mediation attempt was unsuccessful. Judge Lawrence Jahnke ordered the parents to allow the grandparents visitation with the children. The parents appealed.

In a unanimous opinion filed last week, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed Jahnke’s decision. Justice Dale Sandstrom wrote in the opinion that fit parents are assumed to be acting in the best interests of their children when they limit visitation.

“Grandparents do not have the same right as parents to visitation or custody of a child,” the opinion said.

The decision will send the case back to district court. The Supreme Court also ruled that if Jahnke still requires visitation with the children’s grandparents, the visitation must be less than what was originally ordered. The original order was in line with what a non-custodial parent gets for parenting time, the opinion said.

“If the district court again orders grandparent visitation, the visitation schedule should reflect grandparent visitation, not parenting time,” the opinion said.

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Reach Jenny Michael at 701-250-8225 or jenny.michael@bismarcktribune.com.