In 2015 the Minnesota Legislature enacted significant changes to the state statutes governing child custody and parenting time. In these first weeks of the New Year, it is worth taking a look at these changes and how they will affect child custody determinations in the future.
The Legislature rewrote the definition of “best interests of the child” in the statute. As in the past, the statute lists a number of factors to be considered by the court in determining the best interests of the child. The factors listed in the amended statute include the extent to which the child will benefit from the most possible parenting time with both parents, and whether the child will be negatively affected by limiting time with one parent. In enacting this provision, the Legislature has sent a clear message to courts and divorcing parties that shared parenting is to be encouraged.
Another important change in the law is in the notice that must appear in all custody orders. Under the amended statute, the notice must advise the parties that both parents have the right to see the child’s medical, school and other records regarding the child and have the right to receive copies of those records. The notice must also state that both parents have the right to attend parent-teacher conferences.
The legislative changes reflect more current thinking about the role of parents in their children’s lives after a divorce. The statute now places greater emphasis on maintaining the child’s relationship with both parents, and less emphasis on comparing one parent with the other. A parent who is unsure how the changes will affect them and their child may wish to consult an experienced Minnesota family law attorney.