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What Does Primary Residence Mean?

What Does Primary Residence Mean?

Authored by: Messick Law PLLC

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently issued a decision clarifying the limits of a parent’s authority when they are granted “primary residence” of the child. In Wolf v. Oesterich, A20-0235 (February 22, 2021), the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that a parent, who shares joint legal custody and is designated the provider of the child’s primary residence, does not have the authority to unilaterally select the child’s school.

The Court of Appeals found that “primary residence”, which is not defined in statute, does not override the powers retained by a joint legal custodian. It reasoned that “primary residence” relates to the principal location where the child resides and, therefore, to physical custody, rather than legal. The choice of school enrollment is a legal custody question and therefore a “primary residence” designation has no bearing upon it.

While a “primary residence” designation does not affect the joint legal custodian powers, the Court noted that parties can use a “primary residence” designation to structure a physical custody arrangement and that such a designation impacts the standard for modification of parenting plans under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 518.

For more information on the definitions of physical and legal custody, please see the following article.

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