Child Custody / Parenting Time
Physical and Legal Custody
There are two components to child custody, physical and legal custody. Physical custody is essentially where the children primarily reside and how the parents allocate time between each household. Legal custody deals with decision making for the children and in particular legal decisions such as what medical care to provide, what schools the children attend, what religion, if any, to raise the children in and other legal issues.
It is presumed under the law that parents have an equal right to participate in the legal decision making for their children, which we call “joint legal custody”, which is awarded in most cases. See Minnesota Statute §518.17, Subd. 2. However, the presumption of joint legal custody is a “rebutable presumption”. Unfortunately, in some cases the parties are simply unable to communicate and cooperate sufficiently and/or there has been domestic abuse in the relationship to the point where they cannot make decisions jointly. In those cases, one party will generally be awarded sole legal custody, but the other party still has rights to access medical and educational information, participate in school conferences and the like.
There are no presumptions regarding physical custody or whether it should be characterized as sole, joint or something else. Many questions arise about what is the difference and how it impacts the allocation of time between each party and the child(ren) and other things like child support. While there are no quick and easy answers to these questions, sorting through the options and alternatives is a typical part of what we do in consulting over a divorce or custody case.
The standard that applies when and if the parties cannot agree on physical or legal custody is called the “best interests of the child(ren)”. See Minnesota Statute §518.17. If the parties need to turn to the court or others to help determine custody, the court will award physical custody to whichever parent will better serve the best interests of the minor children. To evaluate the best interests of the children, the statute breaks the analysis down into the thirteen factors that are outlined in the statute and considered by the Court. Feel free to call me at 763-682-1882 at no charge if you have questions about custody and parenting time.
Parenting time is how we describe the time children spend with the parent they do not primarily reside with. The law presumes that it is in the best interest of children to have healthy relationships with each parent. The legal standard and statute that applies when determining appropriate parenting time is also called the “best interests of the child(ren)” standard. See Minnesota Statute §518.175.
Appropriate parenting time can vary for children of different ages. For school age children parenting time is exercised when the children are not in school, primarily evenings, weekends, holidays and school vacations. Structuring parenting time often requires balancing work schedules, school schedules, child care arrangements, activities, transportation and the requirements of daily life. The needs of infants, toddlers and pre-school aged children can be different than older children. There is an art to crafting parenting time arrangements for children of any age. Having an experienced attorney can be of great benefit in helping people through the challenges of finding a good balance between everybody’s schedules and the best interests of the children. Feel free to call me at 763-682-1882 at no charge if you have questions about custody and parenting time.