People going through a divorce or individuals that are trying to co-parent that were never married may experience difficulties reaching a decision on custody and parenting time with their minor children. If parties cannot agree on custody and/or parenting time, they may need to hire a neutral expert to evaluate the children, the parties, their homes, etc., to determine the best interests of the children. There are many factors that may impact the result of a custody case, and thus being aware and conscious of one’s actions is beneficial for all involved.
Minnesota Residency Requirements
One of the first considerations is understanding residency requirements. According to the MN Judicial Court, “to have your child custody issues decided by a judge in Minnesota, the child must have lived in Minnesota with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months or 180 days before starting the court process.”
Types of Custody
There are currently two types of child custody under MN law, and with many factors to consider when settling upon a custody arrangement, there are many directions in which the final decision could go. Parents may share custody, one may be designated with sole custody, or parents may share legal custody and one parent has sole physical custody. There is terminology associated with custody arrangements that parties going through a divorce should become familiar with, so there’s no confusion during this sensitive time. The two types of custody are:
Parties could share joint legal and physical custody, or they could have joint legal custody and one party has sole physical custody, or one party could have sole legal custody and then the parties share joint physical custody. Studying the legal jargon and familiarizing oneself with each potential scenario will help the process move along smoothly and help involved parties understand their legal rights.
Factors to Take Into Consideration
If children are younger, the discussion of custody boils down to required nourishment, nutritional consistency, and familiarity. Infants and newborns often spend more time with their mothers as they usually are breastfeeding.
Additionally, younger children also require familiar environments and consistency with whom they spend their time. Any uncertainty or lack of routine can increase stress levels and affect their overall health. It will be important that parenting time be frequent between both parents, but it may require that the child ultimately spend more time with their primary caregiver. The ages of the children may have an impact on the determination of custody and parent time.
If during a custody case, a parent is concerned about the other parent’s mental health or if there are substance abuse concerns, a custody evaluator (and subsequently the court) may impose conditions on a parent in order for the parent to exercise
parenting time with the children.
In addition, there are other possible factors that would affect a determination for custody and parenting time including, but not limited to, the distance between the parties’ homes, the preference of the children, the parties’ ability to co-parent and promote the children’s relationship with the other parent, and the parties’ ability to agree on the children’s upbringing (religion, schooling, and medical care).
If the involved parents are unable to agree on the custody of their children, there is another option. A court-ordered custody evaluation can be granted to observe each parent, and the judge will utilize the observed suitability findings of the involved parties to make the best decision for the children.
Children will always be a responsibility, and a parent’s purpose is to provide a structured, educational, positive life. A decision to get a divorce shouldn’t affect the life of a child, and the parents must work together to build an effective platform for co-parenting while managing their happiness appropriately. Contact us today if guidance is needed in a custody case.
This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact us.