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Minnesota law regarding custody judgments

Courts in Minnesota are to follow a set of rules found in section 518.17 of the Minnesota Statutes when making child custody decisions. The statute defines a variety of factors to be examined thoroughly in order to pass rulings that benefit children and protect them from abuse.

The statute first defines the best interests of a child, going into detail regarding 13 specific factors that could promote or diminish a child's general well-being and stability. For instance, the wishes of parents and of children deemed old enough to show preference are evaluated along with factors such as a child's social adjustment and his or her cultural background. It also orders courts not to consider a prospective custodian's conduct outside of what could affect that person's relationship with the child.

Four additional factors are weighed in deciding whether to allow joint legal or physical custody including parental capacity to raise a child cooperatively, willingness to effectively use available dispute resolution methods regarding major life decisions, any potential downsides to sole custody and whether domestic abuse between parents has taken place. If either or both parents request it, the court will presume that joint legal custody is in a child's best interests; however, if domestic abuse has happened between the parents, the court will presume that neither legal nor physical joint custody will be in a child's best interests.

Any child custody arrangement settled in Minnesota is intended to comply with this statute's guidelines. In order to meet the court's expectations regarding some of these factors, an attorney may argue among other supporting points that a child is thriving at a school where he or she lives with one parent and should stay in the area for his or her emotional health.

Source: The Office of The Revisor of Statutes, "518.17 Custody and Support of Children on Judgement", July 31, 2014

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