Divorce is complicated, both legally and financially, and often fueled by a number of conflicting emotions. The situation is made all the more complex when children are involved. Parents are concerned about the effects of the divorce on their children and try their best to limit the impact, but are often confused about their parental rights and custody moving forward. The attorneys at Gilbert Alden PLLC provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about child custody in Minnesota.
How does a court determine child custody?
In Minnesota, the courts use the best interests of the child standard. It’s quite a lofty phrase, but the legislature has identified twelve factors to consider.
- the child’s physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs as well as the effect of custody arrangements on those needs;
- any special needs of the child, including medical, mental health, and education needs, that would require special arrangements;
- the child’s wishes concerning custody, assuming the child is physically and emotionally capable of expressing preference;
- in instances of domestic abuse, the context of the abuse and the effects of the actions of an abuser on the child;
- the mental and physical health of all parties including chemical health issues that may effect the child’s safety and developmental needs;
- the history and nature of each parent’s participation in the child’s care;
- whether each parent is willing and able to provide ongoing care for the child, including meeting ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs in a consistent environment;
- the child’s ability to adjust to a new home, school, and community and the effect of changes on the child’s well-being;
- the interaction between the child with a parent and siblings and the effect of the proposed arrangements on those relationships;
- the benefit to the child in maximizing time with both parents and the detrimental effects of limiting time with one parent;
- the ability of each parent to encourage and permit contact with the other parent, except in cases where certain domestic abuses have occurred; and
- the willingness and ability of parents to cooperate in the raising the child, to share information, minimize the child’s exposure to parental conflict, and utilize efficient methods for resolving disputes concerning major decisions in the life of the child.
What is the difference between joint custody and sole custody?
Legal custody grants either one or both parents the authority to make decisions concerning a child’s education, health, and religion. Joint legal custody entitles both parents to have a say on these issues. In the event that a dispute arises, the issues are resolved in family court, through mediation, or a parenting time consultant/parenting time expediter. On the other hand, sole legal custody allows only one parent to make major decisions in the child’s life. The other parent is not stripped of their parental rights entirely, but large decisions are left up to the parent who possesses sole legal custody.
Physical custody describes who is in charge of the day to day care of the child(ren). In joint physical custody, the child spends time living with both parents. If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent may still have parenting time. This time may be very little to a large amount depending on the circumstances of the case.
If parents are awarded joint custody does that eliminate child support?
No. In most cases, custody has no bearing on a child support award. Child support is calculated based on the monthly income of both parents. The court also considers expenses such as daycare and medical/dental insurance costs.
In addition, the time the child spends with each parent is considered. There are three tiers for parenting time percentages. If a parent if granted less than 10% of time with the child, no adjustment is made to the amount of basic support owed. If parenting time is between 10 and 45%, a 12% reduction in child support is granted. If a parent is granted over 45% of the time with the child, an additional reduction is made. It’s important to note child support is based on the time awarded in the divorce decree, not the actual amount of time the parents spends with the child.
For more information on parenting time and child custody arrangements, contact our award winning attorneys at Gilbert Alden PLLC. Our knowledgeable attorneys are committed to providing personalized, high quality service to each and every client.