How are custody and parenting time determined in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, regardless of whether you were married or you have a joint child outside of a marriage, when either party brings an Court action, the Court will make custody and parenting time determinations based upon Minnesota Statute § 518.17. In every case where the parties have joint minor children, he parties must reach an agreement and/or the Court will issue an Order establishing legal custody, physical custody and parenting time for each child.
Legal custody is defined by Minnesota Statute § 518.003 as “the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.” In Minnesota it is presumed that joint legal custody, is appropriate, and joint legal custody will be granted unless the other party is able to show that joint legal custody would not be the child’s best interests. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities, including the right to participate in major decisions determining the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.
In deciding whether to award legal custody, the Court considers the following factors:
The ability of the parties to cooperate in the rearing of the children.
Methods of resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child, and the parents’ willingness to use those methods.
Whether it would be detrimental to the child if one parent were to have sole authority over the child’s upbringing.
Whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parties.
Physical custody as defined by Minnesota Statute § 518.003 means “the daily care and control and the residence of the child.” In Minnesota there is not a presumption in favor of joint physical custody. However, if joint physical custody is awarded (and it often is), this means that the routine daily care and control and the residence of the child is structured between the parties.
In making a decision regarding an award of sole physical custody to one party or an award joint physical custody to both parties, the Court must consider the best interest of the child based upon following:
the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to custody;
the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
the child’s primary caretaker;
the intimacy of the relationship between each parent and the child;
the interaction and interrelationship of the child with a parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; 0) the capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion or creed, if any;
the child’s cultural background;
the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if related to domestic abuse, that has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual, whether or not the individual alleged to have committed domestic abuse is or ever was a family or household member of the parent; and
except in cases in which a finding of domestic abuse has been made, the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child.
The court may not use one factor to the exclusion of all others. The primary caretaker factor may not be used as a presumption in determining the best interests of the child. The court must make detailed findings on each of the factors and explain how the factors led to its conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child.
Despite the importance of legal and physical custody labels, many would argue that the most important aspect of an agreement and/or Order is the parenting time schedule. Parenting time is the specific schedule specifying when the child spends time with each parent. A parenting time schedule must be developed based upon the best interests of the child.
While there are some schedules that we often see work for parents, it is most important to identify a schedule that works best for each family. While a certain amount of flexibility is best for both the parents and the child, a formal, structured parenting time schedule should take into account the unique circumstances of each family, their work schedules, school arrangements and extracurricular obligations.
In addition to outlining a day-to-day schedule, most parenting time arrangements include provisions for sharing time on holidays, allowing parents to take vacations with the child, and address other issues unique to each family.
In many instances, custody and parenting time determinations are the biggest issues in the case. If you are able to reach a detailed agreement on these issues, you can often avoid significant expense and conflict in the future. With our vast experience dealing with these issues, we are often able to anticipate issues that will need to be addressed which you may not have considered. If you would like to sit down with an experienced family law attorney to discuss these issues, please contact our office for a no charge consultation.
This website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this website should be taken as legal advice for any specific circumstance. As laws vary from state to state, some information on this website may not be correct for your jurisdiction and cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your state.