Changes could be coming to Minnesota divorce law

Lawmakers are considering modifications to state's child custody rules

The Minnesota House is currently considering a bill, HF 2722, that will modify the way courts decide how child custody rights should be granted after a divorce. The bill, which is still in its early stages, would remove any presumption either for or against joint custody unless there is evidence of abuse between the parents. The bill represents a modest push towards shared parenting that has been seen across the nation.

Law would allow for evolving custodial arrangements

While Minnesota courts have generally been moving towards granting joint custody in the past 10 years, this new bill would put that general trend into law. Furthermore, by removing any presumption for or against joint custody, the law effectively means that older case law that favored sole custody would be no longer be the standard.

The big changes in the bill are not limited to joint custody, however. HF 2722 also allows the court to reconsider parenting time later on based on a child's "changing developmental needs." In effect, this could mean that a parent who refused parenting time early on due to personal problems, for example, could have that arrangement reconsidered by a court if he can show he has made changes. One criticism of this change, however, is that it potentially incentivizes parents to constantly apply for a change in parenting time arrangements.

The bill would also mean that even if the parents disagree over whether sole or joint custody should be awarded, that disagreement on its own cannot be used as an argument against the ability of both parents to raise the child together.

Bill follows failed shared parenting effort

This new bill comes on the heels of 2012's failed attempt by the House to increase the minimum parenting time presumption. That bill, which was vetoed by Gov. Dayton, would have raised the minimum parenting time presumption from 25 percent to 35 percent, according to the Star Tribune.

While the new law does not go as far as 2012's failed bill, it does represent another instance of a general shift towards shared parenting that is occurring in many states. As USA Today reported in January, a number of state legislatures, including Connecticut, South Dakota, and Maryland, are considering changes to their child custody laws in favor of shared parenting. Arkansas, meanwhile, passed a law that will have courts presume that equal parenting time is in the best interests of the child unless shown otherwise.

Working out parenting time after divorce

Since the Minnesota bill is still in its early stages, it is impossible to say what final form it will take as law if it is even passed at all. Nonetheless, the bill highlights a growing issue that many Minnesotan parents face following a divorce. Negotiating child custody is often the most contentious point in a divorce case and parents will usually want an agreement that allows them to spend as much time as possible with their child.

Because of the often fractious nature of child custody disputes, it is necessary for any parent seeking sole or joint custody of a child to consult with an experienced family law lawyer. Such a lawyer will advise the client on what steps can be taken in order to reach an agreement that works in the best interests of the parent.