Legal Custody in Minnesota
In Minnesota, custody is defined in terms of legal custody and physical custody. The scope of this article is legal custody.
Legal custody is defined as "the right to determine the child's upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training." 1 Most of the time, parties to a divorce are awarded joint legal custody, which means that "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."2 In deciding whether to award joint legal custody, the Court considers the following factors:
If either party requests joint legal custody, then it is presumed that joint legal custody is
appropriate, and joint legal custody will be granted unless the other party is able to prove that
joint legal custody would not be in the child's best interests.4 (This presumption does
not apply if the Court finds that domestic abuse has occurred between the parties).5
- The ability of the parties to cooperate in the rearing of the children.
- Methods of resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child, and the parents' willingness to use those methods.
- Whether it would be detrimental to the child if one parent were to have sole authority over the child's upbringing.
- Whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parties.3
In my experience, the Court will almost always award joint legal custody, unless there are strong
reasons not to, such as a very serious inability to cooperate or communicate,6 or serious
parental disfunction on the part of one parent - e.g., serious alcohol or drug addiction, physical or
sexual abusiveness, or a long history of a lack of involvement in the children's parenting.
Should parties with joint legal custody ever reach an impasse over a legal custody issue, such as
the choice of school, day care provider, church, whether to take Ritalin, etc., then the proper
procedure is to bring a motion and let the Court decide. 7 When this happens, the Court
must decide using a "best interest of the child" standard. 8 There is no preference
given to the custodial parent. 9
1 Minnesota Statute section 518.003, Subdivision 3(a).
2 Minnesota Statute section 518.003, Subdivision 3(b).
3 Minnesota Statute section 518.17, Subdivision 2.
4 Minnesota Statute section 518.17, Subdivision 2.
6 Veit v. Veit, 413 N.W.2d 601 (Minn.Ct.App. 1987) (reversing sole legal custody award where the lack of cooperation on which is was based was found to be of recent origin and the result of the dissolution proceeding).
7 Novak v. Novak, 446 N.W.2d 442 (Minn.Ct.App. 1989).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric C. Nelson has devoted his practice exclusively to family law, with particular focus on divorce
and child custody matters, including, but not limited to post-decree modification of custody.
Eric has successfully handled hundreds of cases of divorces (both contested and uncontested),
child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, parenting time, out-of-state moves, domestic abuse,
harassment, and other miscellaneous family law matters, both in and out of court.
Mr. Nelson has been praised by clients for a respectful attitude, promptness and honesty.
He can be contacted by phone at (612)321-9402 or or Visit Web Site
| || |
Follow Us On
THIS WEB SITE IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY
Do not take any actions based upon the information contained within this web site without first consulting an attorney or an appropriate professional depending upon the content of the information.