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Minnesota child custody bill passes House, Senate

Last night, in the midst of the Viking stadium debate, the Minnesota Senate voted 46-19 in favor of a bill that, if signed by Governor Mark Dayton, will change child custody presumptions.

The bill, HF 322, was originally authored by Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover. Scott wanted to create a presumption of shared custody. Under her bill, each parent would have received 45.1 percent of shared custody. One of the goals of the bill was to provide fathers with equal rights in Minnesota child custody hearings. The bill also would have affected child support calculations and would have allowed for virtual parenting time (through wireless and video technology).

That bill passed the House with an 80-53 vote, but did not make it through Senate committees. The bill passed by the Senate would increase the child custody presumption from 25 to 35 percent. Under the presumption, each parent would receive 35 percent of child custody and the final 30 percent would be determined through divorce proceedings.

Opponents of the bill claim that the presumption could be harmful to children and might not be in children's best interests. The best interests standard is one of the most important standards in divorces involving children. Judges must use this standard when determining child custody and visitation. The legislature provides thirteen factors to help determine a child's best interests, including the wishes of the child and parents, the child's primary caretaker, the child's relationship with each parent, the child's ability to adjust and more.

HF 322 will not dramatically change child custody proceedings, but it may impact the way child custody is divided in the future. The bill awaits signature by Governor Mark Dayton.

Source: Star Tribune, "Update: MN child custody reform bill inching closer to passage," Jeremy Olson, May 10, 2012.

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