At Heimerl and Lammers, our divorce attorneys understand that most spouses could easily decide to end their troubled marriages if they were the only two people involved in the dissolution. When children are involved, couples can wait months or even years to divorce, assuming the best thing to do is stay together for their kids. Others simply do not know how the child custody legal process unfolds and are afraid of the unknown.

For more than 20 years, we have represented both spouses who want to split their parenting time down the middle, and those who want to fight for sole child custody, so the kids only have limited exposure to the other parent. What we have learned from our decades of experience is each divorce is unique, and so is the way each parent handles the details. Spouses with minor children have many things to consider when they end their marriages and often the main question becomes, who determines where the children will live after a divorce? The answer is simple and includes one of two options: Either you and your spouse determine your child custody details on your own, or the family courts will decide for you. The process, however, is quite different for each.

How Can My Spouse and I Determine Child Custody?

Minnesota family courts prefer that all parents determine their child custody arrangements on their own, or at least try to before they take their case to court. This can occur during private discussions and agreements made by both parents on their own time or during divorce mediation sessions.

These decisions will include:

  • Where the child lives when their time is not split 50/50
  • Visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent
  • Drop-off/Pick-up times throughout the week or on weekends
  • Vacation, holiday, and school break parenting time agreements

Once these decisions are made, they will be outlined in a binding legal document during the divorce proceedings and signed off on by both parents and the court.

Our child custody attorneys can help solidify the details of your agreement, so no detail is left to chance and that the contract is enforceable by either party going forward. If parents cannot agree on child custody matters, the court will intervene and rule how they see fit, based on the facts and evidence presented by each parent and their attorney.

How Will the Minnesota Court Determine Child Custody?

Like most states, child custody in Minnesota will be determined by the courts based on the best interests of the children.

The important part of this decision-making process is understanding how they arrive at the answer to what those best interests are, as the judge will consider multiple factors, including:

  • Whether the parents are seeking sole or joint custody of the child(ren)
  • The physical, mental, or chemical health of both parents
  • The children’s preference when maturity allows them to reasonably express their wishes

The courts will also consider who is the primary caretaker and where the kids live now — during the divorce proceedings — to maintain continuity in their home, school, and community.

Familial factors that will carry significant weight during the judge’s evaluation will include each parent’s ability to provide the love, affection, and guidance the children need to thrive, while continuing to raise the kids within the family culture, religion, or creed and maintain connections with siblings and bonds with others family members who significantly contribute to their overall well-being.

Can a Third-Party Decide Which Parents Get Custody of Our Children in Minnesota?

When divorcing parents are at an impasse regarding any possible child custody agreement, and the judge needs more information to make an official ruling in the best interests of the child, the court may order a child custody evaluation to be administered by a professional.

He or she may be commissioned to conduct interviews with each parent and child, including details on how they interact and how the parents cooperate in the child-rearing process. When necessary, the evaluation may include psychological testing and interviews with daycare providers, teachers, and physicians familiar with the family dynamics.

The goal of the evaluation is to determine whether it would be detrimental to the children if one parent has control over their upbringing, or whether both parents can use their resources to make major decisions together and resolve any disputes that arise along the way. The evaluator will submit a report to the judge, who will decide where the children will live based on their findings.

What if Our Family Has Been Impacted by Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence issues that occurred within the home, either with a parent or another individual, will strongly influence where the children live after a divorce and how child custody is determined going forward. These circumstances require evidence that the children have previously suffered abuse or neglect in the past, which will give the court the necessary legal tools to make decisions that avoid placing the children in harm’s way.

How Can I Improve My Chances of Sharing Custody of My Children in Minnesota?

If you have questions about how your divorce will affect where your children will live contact our family law attorneys at Heimerl and Lammers today by calling (612) 294-2200 or by contacting us online to understand your rights to share custody of your kids or to pursue sole custody if your circumstances allow. We will assess your unique case and the details surrounding your kids’ needs to pursue the best outcome available for your family.