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Child custody can be the most wrenching issue in divorce

Divorce is an emotionally difficult time for anyone. But for parents, especially parents of young children, it can be particularly hard. When minor children are involved, the court must decide the issue of child custody. For most parents, knowing they may be separated from their children, even if the separation is only for limited periods of time, can be profoundly upsetting.

Minnesota courts look at a number of factors when they decide child custody cases, but the primary overall consideration is always the best interests of the child. Courts can and do consider the parents' wishes, but they are often conflicting. The court can consider the child's preference as to which parent he or she wants to live with, but only if the child is mature enough to state a preference independently of parental influence.

For a parent, bad-mouthing the other parent in the child's presence can backfire badly. In deciding custody, the court will take into account each parent's willingness to encourage a positive relationship between the other parent and the child.

When one parent wants to relocate to another city or state and take the child with them, it raises serious legal issues. Child relocation issues are among the most contentious that can arise in a custody dispute.

If at all possible, parents should try to negotiate with each other and work out a mutually acceptable custody agreement. Alternative dispute resolution can be particularly helpful in resolving custody disputes. If negotiations prove fruitless, an experienced family law attorney can fight for a parent's rights in court.

Source: Minnesota Revisor of Statutes, "Minn. Stat. § 518.17," accessed Aug. 27, 2016

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