Child Custody in Minnesota – Best Interests of the Child

Minnesota’s New Best Interests Factors for Child Custody

When the court must make a decision regarding custody of a child, whether in a divorce or in a separate custody proceeding, the court must consider specific factors when making its decision. The court also may consider any other factors that are relevant to the determination of custody. So, what are Minnesota’s new Best Interests Factors for Child Custody?

The specific factors the court must consider are referred to as the “best interests of the child” factors and are set forth in Minnesota Statutes section 518.17. These factors give parents and attorneys direction regarding what facts the court must consider when determining custody and also creates uniformity throughout the state in custody proceedings. Additionally, because the best interests factors have been in existence for many years, previous court decisions considering the best interests factors provide guidance to parents, attorneys, and the court in divorce and custody proceedings.

When Minnesota’s new Best Interests Child Custody Factors became law

On August 1, 2015, the best interests of the child factors were revised by the Minnesota Legislature to be more child-focused. The effects of this change are not yet known. Many of the new best interests factors are similar to the old best interests factors. But a comparison of the two suggests a few key considerations that the Minnesota Legislature likely intended for future child custody determinations.

What are Minnesota’s new Best Interests Child Custody Factors?

The new best interests factors show a greater emphasis on the involvement by both parents in the child’s life. The new best interests factors instruct the court to consider the benefit to the child of maximizing parenting time with “both parents” and that it is in the best interests of the child to promote the child’s relationship with “both parents.” Similarly, the court is instructed to consider “both parents” as having the capacity to develop and sustain nurturing relationships with their child unless there are substantial reasons to believe otherwise. The old best interests factors instructed the court to consider each parent’s capacity to parent, but did not suggest that each parent be presumed to be capable of parenting.

The statute now specifically states that parents may be awarded joint physical custody without an equal division of parenting time. This change incorporates past practices in which parents agreed to a joint physical custody label even though the child would reside with one parent the majority of the time. This also may reflect the Minnesota Legislature’s intent to move away from the labels of custodial and non-custodial parents, which tended to create controversy.

The old best interests factors included thirteen factors for the court to consider, plus an additional four factors to consider whenever joint legal or joint physical custody is sought. The new best interests factors no longer have two separate inquiries. Instead, twelve factors are applied to decide joint legal and joint physical custody.

The child’s preference as to custody is still a factor if the court feels the child is of sufficient age and maturity to express a preference. But the new factor provides that the preference must be independent and reliable. Previously, courts have not considered a child’s preference if the preference was the result of manipulation or influence by a parent. The new factor now specifically recognizes this.

Whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parents continues to be a factor. If domestic abuse has occurred, the presumption against joint legal custody remains. However, the domestic abuse factor now suggests that the domestic abuse and its effect on the child be addressed in greater detail. What effect this change will have must still be determined.

If domestic abuse has not occurred, the presumption in favor of joint legal custody remains. There is also a presumption against joint physical custody if domestic abuse has occurred. But the statute now specifically states that there is no presumption for or against joint physical custody if domestic abuse has not occurred. There has been some concern in the past that some judges have presumed that joint physical custody is not in a child’s best interests. Again, the effect of this change has not yet been determined.

Other key considerations remain. The court must consider all best interests factors and cannot rely on any one factor to the exclusion of all others. The court cannot prefer one parent over the other solely on the basis of a parent’s gender. The court also must make detailed findings on each factor and explain how each factor led to its custody determination.

Child custody cases are emotional and complicated. The court must consider the “best interests of the child” factors and recent changes to these factors. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney if you are involved in a custody proceeding.

Contact Jeddeloh & Snyder, PA today for a consultation. We can help you through the sometimes difficult and emotional experience of divorce and child custody proceedings.

Five Ways a Custody Lawyer Can Help You Win

If you are going through a divorce, one of the most difficult issues revolves around who will be the primary caretaker of your children. Agreements related to the care of children are legally binding and determine exactly which responsibilities each parent will have. Usually, there are two primary issues to be resolved. First, who will be responsible for making legal decisions for the children? Also, where will the children physically reside on a daily basis? The latter can be a jointly shared situation, or one parent can be designated as the primary and sole caretaker. When parents cannot come to an agreement between themselves, custody lawyer can help with the legal proceedings. Here are five ways an attorney can help.

1. Familiarity with Family Law

A skilled, experienced custody lawyer will be thoroughly prepared for any issues. They will understand what the other party may be attempting and have several counter arguments prepared. This is a particularly critical asset if your situation is complicated and your spouse is fighting you for primary control.

2. Experience with Negotiation

According to the American Bar Association, less than five percent of these types of cases actually make it to a judge. That’s because in the majority of cases, parents make their own agreement before they end up at the courthouse, usually through negotiations between themselves and their attorneys. Having a trusted custody lawyer is essential during the negotiation phase because an attorney could increase the likelihood that you will get exactly what you desire while retaining your legal rights. An experienced legal counselor will negotiate for your best interests and for the best interests of your kids.

3. Confidence with Courtroom Procedures

If you do end up before a judge, a family law professional will know exactly how to present your case in its best light. They will have confidence with complex courtroom procedures, remaining organized and prepared to use evidence to support your argument.

4. Ability to Set Up Child Support

An experienced custody lawyer will be able to negotiate so that your spouse pays a sufficient amount. On the other hand, representation could ensure that you don’t overpay. Without a professional at your side, you may not know how to tackle the support issues, and you could end up with a legally binding, inequitable amount.

5. Capability to Put You and Your Children’s Interests First

When attempting to obtain the most beneficial agreement, a trusted attorney will put you and your children’s interests first. Experience in family law allows skilled counsel to understand that although this type of battle can be a contentious and stressful situation, it will ultimately be important to come up with a solution that benefits all involved parties. You need someone on your side who will fight for you while also looking out for your kids.

In the end, when making a decision, the court will place a premium on what’s in the best interests of the children. A good custody lawyer will fight for you and protect your rights so that your family is cared for and protected in the manner that they deserve

Child Custody Presumptions in Minnesota

Custody Presumptions in Minnesota

According to Minnesota child custody laws, a custodial parent is entitled to at least 25 percent of the parenting time with his or her child. There are other notable presumptions in family law that exist today, or no longer exist, that a parent also should know. They involve the two types of custody: (1) legal custody; and (2) physical custody.

Legal custody means the right to be involved in and to make decisions regarding the major aspects of the child’s upbringing, including schooling, medical care, and religion. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal input regarding the major aspects of the child’s upbringing. Sole legal custody means that one parent has sole authority over the major aspects of the child’s upbringing.

Physical custody means the routine daily care of the child and where the child lives. Joint physical custody means that the routine daily care of the child is shared between the parents. This can be a 50/50 custody arrangement where the parents share care of the child on an equal basis (for example, every week). The child may be in one parent’s care more than the other parent, but the parents may agree to call it joint physical custody. One parent can exercise sole physical custody, meaning the child’s residence is considered to be with that parent and that parent is responsible for the daily care and control of the child.

Minnesota law presumes that joint legal custody is in a child’s best interests. This is also evident in the 2015 changes in the “Best Interests of the Child” law set forth in Minnesota Statutes section 518.17. But this presumption is rebuttable. This means that a court may choose not to award the parents joint legal custody, and instead award sole legal custody giving one parent sole authority over the child’s upbringing, should there be evidence that the parents are unable or unwilling to cooperate in the raising of their child.

There is no presumption for or against joint physical custody. But there is a rebuttable presumption against both joint legal custody and joint physical custody when domestic abuse has occurred between the parents.

Finally, there is no longer a presumption that the primary caretaker of the child be awarded custody. A parent’s role as a homemaker and primary caretaker for the child, regardless of the parent’s gender, is just one of the many factors a court will consider when making a custody determination.

These are just a few of the things a parent should know about child custody law in Minnesota. When all is said and done, it is important to remember the importance of having a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney represent your interests as a parent.

These are just a few of the things a parent should know about child custody law in Minnesota. They emphasize the importance of having a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney like the attorneys at Jeddeloh & Snyder PA represent your interests as a parent.