Fargo woman jailed for refusing to allow parents unsupervised visitation with 7-year-old daughter
FARGO – Thirty-two-year-old Katina Tengesdal of Fargo is in jail but not because of criminal charges.
She is in jail because Cass County District Court Judge Doug Herman ordered her jailed on a contempt charge. The reason? Tengesdal refuses to allow her parents unsupervised visitation with her 7-year-old daughter.
“I feel if I sent her there unsupervised, that it would not be the best thing for her, that she would be in trouble, in danger,” Tengesdal said.
Tengesdal is now on day six of wearing orange at the Cass County Jail.
“I have been sitting here watching people on criminal charges bonding out and I am still sitting here,” she said.
WDAY 6 News obtained copies of a North Dakota attorney general’s investigation. Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents looked into allegations of sexual abuse leveled against an adult male Tengesdal family member.
According to the investigative report, there were allegations of inappropriate behavior. The reports detailed accusations that include a request from the alleged perpetrator to an alleged victim: “Don’t tell anybody this happened.”
“This is what this case is all about,” Tengesdal said. “Everything hinges on these papers. It shows my reasons for why I am doing what I am doing.”
In the end, no charges of abuse were filed. One of the alleged victims stopped cooperating with authorities. And according to the BCI investigative report, there was not enough evidence to pursue any charges.
“I thought it was best to just let it go,” Tengesdal said.
When Herman was asked if he considered the investigative report and the abuse allegations when granting the grandparents’ visitation order, he said he could not comment on pending cases.
Tengesdal cannot afford an attorney, so she sits in jail despite filling out a form requesting a public defender. The request is still making its way through the court system.
Her boyfriend, Jason Miller, who works nights, has had to take Tengesdal’s daughter to work overnight and then get her to school in the morning. Miller said the 7-year-old is like a daughter to him, and he supports his girlfriend’s convictions.
Tengesdal could likely get out of jail by agreeing to the grandparent visitation order. But she is willing to sit there on the contempt charge, risking her job and a home mortgage – the price she is willing to pay, she said, to keep her daughter safe.
“As long as it takes, I will protect my daughter. I will do what it takes to protect my daughter,” she said.
This case comes just a month after a similar grandparent visitation dispute in Grand Forks.
The Grand Forks case sparked a rally of supporters for the parents, who were upset a judge granted visitation to grandparents, despite the objection of the parents. Some at the protest thought the ruling threatened parental authority.
Fargo attorney Julie Oster specializes in family law. She said state law calls for reasonable visitation rights if it’s in the best interest of a child.
“The statute has not changed,” Oster said. “The laws have always remained the same, but the Grand Forks case has opened it up a little more, and the case law is a little more free and open to give more grandparents rights.”
Minnesota has similar grandparent visitation rights laws.