If you’re going through a divorce that involves a child or children, one of your largest concerns is likely custody.

Although it is preferred that the parents are able to come to a mutual agreement regarding child custody, that is not always the case. In those cases, the court has to decide child custody based on the child’s best interests.

While determining custody can be a complex issue in some cases, the basics of child custody in Minnesota are fairly straightforward. Here’s what you should know about child custody if you are going through a divorce in Minnesota.

Legal and Physical Custody

First, you should understand the difference between legal and physical custody.

Legal custody determines who has the right to make decisions that affect how the child is raised. This might include decisions about the child’s education or healthcare.

Physical custody specifies which parent has the right to make decisions that affect the child’s daily life. This includes factors like deciding where the child lives.

In a child custody case in Minnesota, the court must determine both who has legal custody and who has physical custody.

Joint Custody

In Minnesota, the court will presume that joint legal custody is in the child’s best interest. This allows for both parents to be involved in making important decisions regarding the child’s health and wellbeing.

The court may decide that joint legal custody is not appropriate for several reasons. If there has been a history of domestic abuse, joint legal custody will likely not be granted. Additionally, the court might determine joint legal custody to be harmful if the parents are not able to cooperate and communicate effectively.

However, joint legal custody is typically preferred as it tends to offer the most stability for the child.

Determining the Child’s Best Interests

If either parent is opposed to a joint custody arrangement and is able to convince the court that it is not in the child’s best interest, then the court will review several factors to determine which parent will gain custody.

Of course, this includes obvious factors such as involvement in the child’s daily life or whether there is any history of abuse. Things that affect the health and wellbeing of the child are of the utmost importance when determining a child’s best interests.

The court will also consider stability and quality of life. Will the child have to move schools? Would the child have to leave behind any friends or family members? Particularly with younger children, the court does not want to force the child to have to move and re-adjust if it can be avoided.

Additionally, if the child is of sufficient age (typically 12 and up) then the court may consider his or her wishes.

Determining child custody is one of the most important things to consider when going through a divorce. For the benefit of the child, it is important that the court thoroughly reviews several factors before making this decision. As child custody cases can be complicated when the parents are unable to come to an agreement, it is important that you seek expert legal counsel to help you navigate this process.