Child custody issues often represent some of the most challenging and emotionally charged issues in family law, which require the assistance of a passionate and empathetic legal advocate.
Under the child custody laws of Minnesota, there are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Custody is primarily about decision making authority, and each parent may be awarded parenting time regardless of the label.
Legal custody is the authority to be involved the major decisions involving the child, which include health care, education, and religious training. There is actually a legal presumption in Minnesota that “joint legal custody” is in the best interests of a child. What that means that the court presumes that is best for a child when both parents have equal rights and responsibilities with regard to the major decisions affecting the child’s life.
Physical custody is the authority to determine the routine daily care and control of the child as well as the residence of the child.
Types of Custody:
- Sole physical custody - The child lives with and is under the supervision of one parent, though the other parent often has parenting time.
- Joint physical custody - The routine daily care and control and the residence of the child is structured between the parents.
- Sole legal custody – One parent has the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of a child.
- Joint legal custody - Both parents have equal rights and responsibilities, including the right to participate in major decisions determining the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.
When parents cant agree on custody the court makes a determination based on its determination of what it believes would be in the best interests of the child. This determination is not merely a practical determination, but involves consideration of 13 specific factors:
(1) the wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to custody;
(2) the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
(3) the child’s primary caretaker;
(4) the intimacy of the relationship between each parent and the child;
(5) 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;
(6) the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
(7) the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
(8) the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
(9) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; except that a disability of a proposed custodian or the child shall not be determinative of the custody of the child, unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interest of the child;
(10) the capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion or creed, if any;
(11) the child’s cultural background;
(12) the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if related to domestic abuse that has occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual, whether or not the individual alleged to have committed domestic abuse is or ever was a family or household member of the parent; and
(13) except in cases in which a finding of domestic abuse has been made, the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child.
The court cannot use one factor to the exclusion of all others, and the primary caretaker factor may not be used as a presumption in determining the best interests of the child.
The court must actually make detailed findings on each of the factors and explain how the factors led to its conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child.
Professional and experienced custody evaluators are often used to help evaluate and present recommendations to the court.
Strategizing and navigating through this process is very complicated making the assistance of a competent attorney invaluable.