Child Custody in Minnesota

Issues of child custody and visitation are often the most emotional ones encountered during a divorce proceeding. Both parents are interested in the well-being of their children, but their beliefs and methods of upbringing may differ greatly. This is a stressful time, not only because of the dissolution of the marriage, but also because of the dissolution of the family.

In Minnesota, there are two types of child custody under the law:

  • Legal custody – this refers to the right to make decisions about how to raise the child. These decisions include issues about education, health care and religious training.
  • Physical custody – this refers to the right to where the child lives and also about making decisions regarding the child's routine day-to-day activities.

Minnesota law determines custody situations based on the best interests of the child. This means that there are a number of factors the court will evaluate. The factors are used by the court to ascertain the settlement of custody issues in each case. There may be joint physical and legal custody, or sole physical but joint legal custody. The court will make this determination based on the best interests factors which are determined after considerable fact finding.

The factors the court will look to include the following:

  • The wishes of the child's parent or parents as to custody;
  • What the child's reasonable preference is as to custody, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
  • Who is the child's primary caretaker;
  • The relationship between each parent and the child;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with a parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
  • The child's adjustment to home, school and community;
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining that continuity in that environment;
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved; note that a disability of a proposed custodian or the child shall not be determinative of the custody of the child, unless the proposed custody arrangement is not in the best interest of the child;
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection and guidance; the court will also consider each party's interest to continue educating and raising the child in the child's culture and religion or creed, if this is a factor;
  • The child's cultural background;
  • The existence of domestic abuse between the parents or between a parent and another individual; and
  • The likelihood of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child.

None of these factors are dispositive; the court will look at all of the factors in total in order to determine the child's best interests. For example, the court will look at the stable environment provided by each parent as well as the custodial home but not weight any of those factors greater than any other because of the gender of the parent. Where there are equal benefits to each party, the court will note that.

Both parties working collaboratively will put the best interests of the children to the fore. If there are concerns, the parents would do well to work them through together, outside the acrimony of the courtroom. By resolving to work collaboratively, the parties generally come to terms far more rapidly than through litigation.

It is important to note that a divorce where the opposing parties work together to keep the best interests of the children at the forefront is a proceeding where issues are resolved with less rancor and more quickly. In a Minnesota collaborative divorce, both parties work together to come to a resolution that factors in the best interests of the children. By working with your Twin Cities divorce attorney and the opposing party, you can resolve any issues swiftly and amicably.

If you have questions about child custody matters in Minnesota, please contact Twin Cities divorce attorney Kimberly Miller. KM Family Law offers a free consultation. From her office in Edina, she represent clients throughout the Twin Cities, including Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Dakota, Wright, Sherburne, Scott and Carver counties.