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An introduction to Minnesota child custody law

In Minnesota and across the nation, there is a familiar mantra whenever the custody of a child is at issue: what is in the best interest of that boy or girl?
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    January 18, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- An introduction to Minnesota child custody law

Article provided by Linnan & Associates Law Firm, L.L.C.
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In Minnesota and across the nation, there is a familiar mantra whenever the custody of a child is at issue: what is in the best interest of that boy or girl? Thankfully, what is best for the kid is front and center in the decision about which parent will make major life decisions for the child and with which parent will the son or daughter regularly live. These are the main questions in a determination of child custody.

Child custody usually comes up when parents divorce or separate, but can also be an issue when parents are unmarried. Either way, when it ends up in Minnesota state court, the judge's focus is on child's best interest.

In Minnesota, two aspects of custody must be decided: legal and physical. Legal custody asks which parent will make crucial decisions involving medical, educational, religious and similar matters. Legal custody can be held by one or by both parents jointly.

Physical custody asks with which parent will the child be at home -- the child's residence from which he or she usually attends school and where he or she lives daily life. Physical custody can be sole with one parent, in which case the other parent usually has designated parenting time, known as visitation, with the child, often on weekends, holidays and summer breaks.

Sometimes the parents have joint physical custody, meaning the child lives part time with each. In Minnesota, joint custody does not require an equal 50-50 split.

Parents may be able to negotiate a custody arrangement without having to submit to a court trial. Often custody is decided as part of a broader marital settlement agreement later submitted to the court for approval. This can be done in traditional negotiation between their divorce attorneys or using an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation.

If the parents can't agree on legal and physical custody, a judge must decide. The judge may interview the child, and the judge also has the discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate for the child and to order an investigation of the family situation.

Minnesota law is very specific about how the judge decides what is in the best interest of the child regarding custody. The court must look at "all relevant factors," including several specifically listed in the law:
-Parental wishes
-Child's wishes, if the court thinks he or she is old enough
-The primary caretaker
-The "intimacy" of the relationship between the child and each parent
-The relationships of the child with the parents, siblings and other important persons
-The child's "adjustment to home, school, and community"
-How long the child has lived in his or her current arrangement, if it is positive, and whether it would be good to continue it
-Whether the proposed residence is likely to be permanent
-The mental and physical health of all parties
-The ability of each parent to give "love, affection, and guidance" and continue cultural and religious traditions
-The child's "cultural background"
-Domestic abuse

Interestingly, Minnesota law specifies that a parent's gender may not be the sole reason for granting custody and that parental behavior should not be considered by the judge when the conduct "does not affect the custodian's relationship to the child."

This is only a broad introduction to a complex area of Minnesota law. Anyone facing issues of child custody should speak with an experienced family lawyer to learn about the law and its impact on his or her situation.

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