One of the most difficult parts of a divorce is creating a child custody agreement. Dividing property, assets, and debts is one thing — but dividing custody of your children can be a whole different challenge.
If you’re thinking about getting a divorce, have already filed, or have been served divorce papers, you might have questions about how child custody issues are resolved in Minnesota. If you’ve already gone through the divorce process, you may have questions about modifying an existing custody agreement.
The Law Office of Glen A. Norton has been helping families in Minnetonka, Minnesota and the surrounding communities find answers to their questions about child custody for more than 30 years, and attorney Glen Norton would be happy to help you with your child custody situation too.
If you’re considering a child custody arrangement, the state of Minnesota outlines two main options for drafting a child custody agreement:
You and the other parent can draft a plan with terms that you both can agree on. It is advisable that you consult with a family law attorney to ensure you protect your interests and your child’s and to make sure you are considering all issues the court will want you to address. This plan must be submitted to the court for approval.
If you are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, the family court will decide one for you. The court will evaluate any issues and approve a final agreement. Again, it is important that you retain an attorney to represent you in this process to ensure your rights as a parent are protected.
As far as establishing a custody agreement, there are two types of custody recognized by the court:
Physical Custody - This essentially decides who the child will physically live with and identifies which parent will deliver routine care such as bathing, clothing, meals, discipline, and transportation to and from school and other activities.
Legal Custody - This form of custody designates which parent will be responsible for making decisions for the child on issues such as medical treatment, education, religion, and legal matters. This would include, for example, getting a flu vaccine or choosing which school to attend.
Physical and legal custody each can be awarded to one parent (sole custody) or both parents (joint custody).
Courts can also make decisions on parenting time when outlining child custody agreements. That is, the number of overnight stays a child has with each parent. The division of parenting time is part of the calculation regarding child support, referred to as the “parenting expense adjustment.”
The parenting expense adjustment law recognizes that more parenting time involves more expenses such as food and transportation, which can influence the amount of child support that a parent is either owed or required to pay. The law also aims to reduce parental conflicts over parenting time and support the need for children to have basic items in both parental homes.
The court evaluates 12 factors when rendering a custody agreement in the best interest of the child. The 12 factors that the court will consider include:
A child’s physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs and the effect of a custody arrangement
Any special medical, mental health, or educational needs of the child;
The reasonable preference of a child if the court deems them of sufficient ability, age, and maturity
Any history of domestic abuse
Any physical, mental, or chemical health issue of a parent
The history and nature of each parent’s participation in caring for the child
The willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child, to meet the child’s needs, maintain consistency, and abide by the allotted parenting time
The effect of the child’s well-being and development if any changes to the home, school, and community are made
The effect on the child’s relationships with each parent, siblings, and other significant people in the child’s life
The benefit to the child in maximizing parenting time with both parents and the detriment in limiting time with either parent
Except in cases involving domestic violence, the willingness of each parent to support and encourage a relationship with the other parent
The willingness and ability of parents to cooperate in the raising of their child, sharing information, minimizing conflict, and utilizing dispute resolution methods when they disagree on major decisions.
Child custody agreements are intended to be in place until the child turns 18 years of age; however, sometimes circumstances change, prompting a parent to seek the modification of an existing child custody agreement.
For example, perhaps a new job will require a parent to relocate to another city or state. This increased distance will affect a parent’s ability to share physical custody of the child, thus requiring a modification. Or perhaps one parent is exhibiting behaviors that make that home unsafe for the child, or a parent is interfering with prescribed parenting time or failing to adhere to the court-approved custody plan. All of these actions can justify one to pursue a modification to an existing child custody arrangement.
Regardless of the circumstances that led to you splitting with your spouse, you never want to lose your relationship with your child. You recognize that while divorce may be the best thing for you and your spouse, it may also be extremely difficult for your child. Anything you can do to provide stability and minimize division is a good thing. That’s why working with an experienced and compassionate child custody attorney can help you and your child make this transition as safely and smoothly as possible.
To begin seeking answers from a compassionate Minnesota family law attorney, call The Law Office of Glen A. Norton today to schedule an appointment. Attorney Glen Norton has helped hundreds of individuals and families in Minnetonka, Minnesota and the surrounding communities with custody agreements and modifications, and would be happy to schedule a consultation to help you as well. Call or reach out today to schedule a case consultation.