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Do Minnesota courts favor joint custody?

Last week we discussed some of the factors Minnesota family court judges consider in making child custody decisions. After considering the relevant factors, the judge has a number of options available.

One option is that the judge may award sole custody to one parent, who is referred to as the custodial parent. In almost all cases in which sole custody is awarded, the noncustodial parent will be given visitation rights.

The other main option is joint custody.

Do courts in Minnesota favor joint custody? The answer depends on whether one is talking about joint legal custody or joint physical custody.

Joint legal custody means both parents share in making major parenting decisions such as those involving education, religious upbringing and health care. In Minnesota, there is a rebuttable presumption in favor of joint legal custody if either or both parents request it. This means the court will presume joint legal custody is in the best interests of the child, unless one parent offers persuasive evidence to the contrary.

Joint physical custody means the child lives with each parent for significant amounts of time. There is ordinarily no presumption under Minnesota law for or against joint physical custody.

There is one important exception to these rules. If there is a history of domestic abuse between the parents, the court will apply a rebuttable presumption that joint custody - legal or physical - is not in the child's best interest.

Child custody issues can be difficult and acrimonious. It is always best if both parents can put their own anger and emotions aside and try to work out an agreement that puts the child's needs and interests first.

Source: Minnesota Revisor of Statutes, Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(b), accessed Sept. 3, 2016

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