Child Custody Lawyers in Minnesota
Custody is one of the major issues (usually the top priority) involved in divorce and paternity cases. Because judges are afforded a great deal of discretion, and because every case is unique, it can be challenging to predict the outcome if the matter proceeds to trial.
Types Of Custody
There are two types of custody under Minnesota law: (1) physical custody; and (2) legal custody.
Podcast: Minnesota Custody and Parenting Time Summary
Legal custody involves the ability of a parent to play a role in the major decisions surrounding the upbringing of a child.
Life-altering educational, religious or medical dilemmas are contemplated within the definition of legal custody. Legal custody does not involve the day-to-day decisions involving the care of a child (such as whether it is appropriate to obtain a throat culture for an ill child), but rather addresses “big picture” issues (such as whether it is best for a child undergoing throat surgery to cure repeated illness).
The law presumes that both parents will share legal custody of a child (“joint” legal custody). That presumption can be overcome, however, if it is demonstrated that the parents have a rather tumultuous relationship.
About 98% of the time, parents are awarded joint legal custody of a child.
Physical custody involves the day-to-day care of a child, and tends to define a child’s primary residence. Children typically spend a greater share of time with a parent who has been awarded sole physical custody.
The law presumes that one parent should serve as the sole physical custodian of a child. That presumption, however, can be overcome if it is demonstrated that both parents have a significant relationship with a child. In that situation, the parties may obtain an order for joint physical custody of a child.
Best Interest Factors
In determining what sort of custody award is appropriate (either physical or legal on a sole or joint basis), 17 different factors are balanced. Cumulatively, these elements are referred to as the “best interest of the child” standard.
One of the reasons that custody cases can be challenging is because there is no specific formula in place to determine the outcome. Rather, the decision is “factor-based,” leading to a wide range of possible outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial to enlist the services of our experienced custody attorneys in Minnesota for legal assistance throughout this complicated process.
In determining what custody arrangement serves the best interest of a child, the court will weigh the following:
- Wishes of parents;
- Wishes of the child (if of suitable age and maturity – there is no magic age);
- Caretaking role each parent has undertaken in the life of the child;
- Intimacy of the relationship among parent and child;
- Interaction among the parent, child and family members;
- Child’s adjustment to home, school and community;
- Stability and continuity of each parent’s home;
- Permanence of proposed custodial home;
- Mental and physical health of the parents and child;
- Capacity of parent to offer love, affection and guidance;
- Any culture issues that may be present;
- Effect on a child of acts of domestic abuse;
- Disposition of each parent to encourage ongoing relationship between the child and other parent;
- Ability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of child;
- Methods parents have to resolve disputes that arise;
- Whether it would be detrimental to the child for one parent to have sole authority over the child’s upbringing; and
- Proximity of the residence of each parent.
The court is certainly free to take into account other factors as part of determining the best interest of a child.
Labels Are Less Meaningful
So often, parents get caught up custody labels. However, our child custody attorneys in Minnesota have found that the label has become less consequential in recent years.
It used to be that the amount child support paid by a parent was tied directly to the custody label. For that reason, litigants placed substantial emphasis on the labels themselves.
The child support statutes were amended in 2007, and placed renewed emphasis on the amount of time spent with a child, as opposed to the label attached to the relationship. Today, family court litigants spend more time talking about specific schedules, and less time arguing over labels.
Our expert custody lawyers in Minnesota are here to help you maintain the rights you deserve and protect your family.