About Custody And Parenting Time
In Minnesota, both parents have legal rights to their children; however, the parent who doesn’t give birth may have to bring the issue before the Court to assert those rights. This parent should hire an experienced Minnesota family law attorney if they wish to assert their parental rights and be involved in their children’s lives and upbringing.
Minnesota’s parenting laws are gender-neutral, which means the Court is not allowed to give a preference to a parent based upon their gender. If parents are unmarried, the birthing mother automatically has sole legal and physical custody under the law until the Court says otherwise. This is true even if the parents sign a Recognition of Parentage. The other parent will need to file a paternity and/or custody action to assert their parental rights.
If the parents are married and seeking a divorce, the issues of custody and parenting time must be resolved as part of the divorce action. Minnesota’s custody laws are gender-neutral, but other factors take precedence in a court’s decision.
What Is Custody?
Minnesota recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical. A parent with legal custody is authorized to make major decisions about a child’s life, such as what type of education they will experience, what kinds of medical care they will receive, and what role religion will have in the child’s upbringing. Examples of legal custody decisions include choosing medical providers and treatments, selecting schools, deciding on extra-curricular activities, allowing the child to obtain a driver’s license and choosing the child’s religious activities. Parents may have sole or joint legal custody.
When a parent has sole legal custody, they do not need to involve the other parent in decision-making for the child. The parent with sole legal custody by the court can make decisions on the child’s behalf without consulting or informing the other parent about those decisions.
Parents with joint legal custody will have equal rights and responsibilities to make decisions for a child. Minnesota’s laws presume that joint legal custody is in the child’s best interests, and that parents with joint legal custody will collaborate in the process of decision-making. Nonetheless, this presumption can be overcome under certain circumstances such as domestic abuse, or if the parents have demonstrated a total inability to work together.
Sole or joint physical custody refers to where a child will live and receive day-to-day nurturing, guidance and protection. A custody order will spell out the parent(s) with whom the child will live day by day.
A parent with sole physical custody is the one with whom the child will reside most of the time. People often refer to the parent with sole physical custody as the one who provides the child’s “primary residence.” The other parent, without sole physical custody, may still be allotted visits for parenting time, possibly including overnight stays.
When parents have joint physical custody, they both care for the children day to day. The amount of time the child spends with each parent may or may not be equal. Courts take into consideration numerous factors in attempting to craft a lasting arrangement that works for the parents and the child. When considering joint physical custody, a court will consider factors such as:
- Whether the parents have demonstrated an ability to work together
- How the parents resolve disputes over decisions to be made about the child’s life
- Whether giving sole authority over a child’s upbringing would harm the child
There is no presumption in Minnesota laws that parents will have joint legal physical custody. (The opposite is true in the case of legal custody). If one party is seeking joint physical custody of the minor child, they should be prepared to prove that they can co-parent and cooperate with the other parent while taking part in raising the child.
What Is Parenting Time?
It is important to note, physical custody is different from “parenting time,” which is the time a parent spends with the child regardless of custody labels. A parenting time order can address the child’s weekly schedule, transportation of the child between homes and where the child will sleep at night. A parent who does not have physical custody still has a right to parenting time. Minnesota law presumes that a parent should have a minimum of 25% of parenting time with their child.
How Do The Courts Determine Custody And Parenting Time?
Minnesota law empowers the judge or referee to use their discretion in determining the best interests of the child based upon a list of factors outlined by statute. These factors are known as the “Best Interests” factors, and they include but are not limited to the child’s physical, emotional, cultural needs, special medical, mental health or developmental needs of the child, the mental and physical health of the parents, the effect of arrangement on the child’s relationship with both parents, each parents’ history of caring for the child, and, when age-appropriate, the child’s preference.
In deciding custody and/or parenting time order, judges are tasked with making a difficult decision that strikes at the very core of a parent’s relationship with their child. It is critical to bring the court a clear, logical and convincing argument that conforms with the law to ensure your desires for custody and parenting time are considered.
Get Dedicated Family Law Attorneys On Your Side
Even when parents agree to share custody of their children, it is still advised to work with a family law attorney who has plenty of experience with custody and parenting time in Minnesota family courts. Family law attorneys bring more than knowledge about the state’s laws; they have familiarity with a wide range of family situations and ideas for problem-solving difficulties in co-parenting. In court, an experienced family law attorney assists you in presenting a solid argument regarding the best interests of your children, whether you are advocating for sole or joint custody.
The team at Messick Law, PLLC, has handled all kinds of family law cases, from amicable divorces to complex custody battles. Our lawyers have years of experience as litigators, are AV Rated and are recognized as Rising Stars by SuperLawyers.com.