Child Endangerment Domestic Abuse And Custody Matters In Minnesota

Criminal law and family law often intersect in Minnesota when suspected negligence or domestic abuse is an issue. In Minnesota, the neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse or mental injury of a child is a crime, meaning a parent may face criminal charges for such behavior. Neglect is the most common crime involving child endangerment, which involves a parent not providing a child with necessary clothing, food, shelter or supervision. Exposing children to illegal drugs or not properly educating a child are also considered neglect.

It is also a crime for failing to report abuse or neglect, as is falsely accusing a parent of abuse when the accuser knows it is not true.

Minnesota places a high priority on protecting children. When a child is in danger, the state will act to remove the child from the dangerous situation. However, it is also possible for a parent to receive services in order to help their family. This could include counseling, parenting education, financial benefits, or access to early childhood or special education.

When domestic abuse, neglect or child endangerment are at issue, there are also some family law considerations. These include orders of protection, child custody and child support.

Civil order of protection

An order for protection is a court order that prevents an abuser from contacting, harming or threatening a victim. A person can obtain a temporary order of protection even if the alleged abuser has not yet committed a crime. Simply believing a spouse or significant other may be a danger is enough to obtain a temporary OFP.

The petitioner (the person filing for an order for protection) can also ask for an OFP for a child if the child is a minor and under the threat of abuse.

Custody considerations

In Minnesota, child custody is determined by the best interests of the child. If suspected abuse has occurred, or there has been a history of abuse, the court will take that into account when deciding custody and visitation matters.

When deciding custody matters, courts give preference to the parents of the child. However, the court will not automatically give preference to a mother over a father. In Minnesota grandparents can petition to have custody, but the grandparents must prove the parents of the child are unfit to care for the child in order to do so. Grandparents can obtain visitation rights if a parent denies the right for a grandparent to see the child for no reason.

Even if a parent is not granted custody or visitation rights, that parent is financially responsible for raising the child. This means a noncustodial parent will pay child support. How much a non-custodial parent must pay in child support depends on the income of the parents, the needs of the child and how much time each parent spends with the child.

Questions that clients often ask attorneys about child endangerment

A thoughtful family law attorney will welcome inquiries such as the following from clients or potential clients:

What can I do if I suspect my ex-husband or ex-wife of neglecting my child?

This can be heart-wrenching and worrisome, to say the least. On one hand, the potential for backlash is real in such cases. You could become known as someone who cries wolf or makes false accusations. On the other hand, as a caring, responsible parent, you naturally want to protect your child from harm and neglect. If you know your child is in danger, call 911. But be careful not to take this action without justification. To strengthen your planned report to authorities, gather all evidence that you can to demonstrate that neglect may be taking place when your child is in the care of the other parent. Keep a log of incidents that come to your attention; keep screenshots of social media posts; gently ask your child or extended family members relevant questions and record their answers. To avoid making a miscalculated move at this point, consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help assess whether the situations that you have observed or suspected amount to neglect. If your case is compelling, an experienced lawyer may help you petition the court to have your custody and visitation order modified to require supervision when your child is with the other parent or to terminate their visitation time altogether.

How can I request custody of my grandchildren?

If your child who was a parent of those grandchildren has died and/or if your grandchild previously lived with you for a year or more and a divorce or custody case is underway, you can petition the court to be included in parenting time schedules. If you have established strong bonds with the children and you have evidence that the children have been neglected in their home environment(s), you may have grounds to seek custody.

A family law attorney can help

Navigating family law and criminal issues that involve domestic abuse or child endangerment can be incredibly difficult and emotional. Minnesota parents concerned about child abuse and neglect should contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss their legal rights and options.

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