At Heimerl & Lammers, our divorce and family law attorneys understand that some parents use the phrases child custody and parenting time interchangeably, but in reality, they are two very different arrangements that are established during Minnesota divorce proceedings when the spouses share minor children.  

Child custody outlines the legal and practical relationship between a parent and their child(ren), which includes legal custody and physical custody.

Parenting time is the time that each parent spends with the child(ren), no matter who has legal or physical custody and is often referred to as visitation.

Child custody arrangements and parenting time schedules are often decided at the same time.

How is Child Custody Determined in Minnesota?

Child custody agreements can be determined in several ways during Minnesota divorce proceedings.

They may include:

  • Parents making an informal agreement regarding child custody without legal or judicial involvement
  • Child custody agreements established during divorce mediation
  • A court trial may occur when the parents cannot agree on legal or physical custody arrangements

Custody agreements must be made about both legal custody, which permits the parent(s) to decide on important details like the welfare, education, and healthcare of the children, and physical custody, which is where the children will live.

Both legal and joint custody can be awarded solely to one parent or jointly to both parents based on the best interests of the children.

What is Parenting Time in Minnesota?

Parenting time is the actual time each parent spends with the child(ren).

This may include the non-custodial parent spending time with the children on certain nights throughout the week or weekend, during school or holiday breaks, and summers.

In Minnesota, there is a presumption that each parent is entitled to at least 25% of the parenting time, but how that time is arranged varies by the unique family dynamics and circumstances of the parents and child(ren) in question.

Ideally, parents will decide on parenting plans that will account for where the kids go to school, their extra-curricular involvement, the parents’ work schedules, and detail the rights and responsibilities of each parent during their parenting time.

If parents cannot make these decisions on their own, the court will ultimately decide their parenting plans for them.

No matter how parenting plans are decided, they must include a schedule of the time each parent spends with the child(ren). They will make certain decisions about the child and solutions for settling arguments when the parents cannot agree on the details.

Can I Request a Child Custody Modification Hearing in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, there are stringent child custody modification standards set by the court.

First, a motion to modify custody cannot be submitted to the court unless it has been at least one year since the custody order went into effect, unless both parents agree — in writing — to the change.

Other valid reasons for requesting a child custody modification within the first year of the order include:

  • Evidence of physical or emotional abuse
  • One parent is interfering in the other parent’s court-ordered parenting time
  • Certain types of criminal convictions

When the time threshold of one year has been met, one parent may request child custody modifications for one or more of the following reasons:

  • There has been a significant change in circumstances of the parties or child
  • The change is recent and occurred after the original order was entered
  • A custody modification must be made to serve the child’s best interests

The parent requesting the modification must be able to prove to the court one of the following factors is also true:

  • The child has been integrated into the family of the petitioning parent with the consent of the other party
  • Unwarranted denial or interference with a duly established parenting time schedule
  • The present environment endangers the child’s physical or emotional health
  • Both parties agree to the modification
  • One parent violated an existing denial by the court for to move the children to another state

If you would like to review your existing child custody agreement and request changes that will benefit your children, contact our child custody modification attorneys to learn more about the eligibility requirements, so you have all the facts you need to make an informed decision about proceeding with the motion.

If you are considering a divorce in Minnesota, and share minor children with your spouse, contact our family law attorneys to determine how your child custody and parenting time will be viewed by the courts, so together we can devise a plan to pursue the best outcome for you and your children by calling (612) 294-2200 or contact us online to meet with our experienced child custody lawyers and professional staff in one of our seven Minnesota offices near you.