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Child custody in Minnesota

In any break-up or divorce where minor-aged children are involved, matters related to child custody must be determined. When possible, parents are advised to set aside their personal differences and attempt to come together for the benefit of a shared child and resolve child custody issues. When possible, a child benefits from the emotional and financial support of both parents and no child should be deprived of the opportunity to know and form a relationship with his or her mother or father.

In Minnesota, decisions related to both legal and physical custody of a child must be determined. Legal custody relates to a parent's legal rights to make important decisions about how to raise a child with regard to matters like education and medical care. Physical custody involves decisions related to a child's daily routine which is largely dictated by where a child lives.

When making child custody determinations, the family court will take numerous factors into account as pursuant to Minnesota Statue 518.17. These include:

  • Best interests of a child
  • Parents' and child’s wishes
  • Child's relationship with each parent
  • Child's age
  • Stability of each parent's home
  • Mental and physical health of each parent and, if applicable, child
  • Each parent's ability to provide a child with love, guidance and education
  • Child's current living situation and the amount of disruption to a child's life that may occur as a result of a custody change

When making decisions related to legal and physical custody, joint or sole arrangements may be made. For example, a mother and father may be granted joint legal custody of a child, but the mother retains sole physical custody. In cases where physical custody is not joint or shared the parent who does not have physical custody of a child is typically awarded visitation or parenting time. 

As previously noted, whenever possible parents should work to try to resolve the bulk of child custody matters outside of court. Doing so helps improve the likelihood that a custody agreement will ultimately serve to benefit all family members. It's also important to note that, in cases where a parent's circumstances change, custody and visitation matters can be modified. An attorney who deals with family law and child custody and child support matters can answer questions and provide assistance. 

Source: Minnesota Judicial Branch, "Basics on Child Custody & Parenting Time," 2014

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