When Minnesota parents go through a divorce, one of the most emotionally difficult issues to decide involves who stays with the kids and for how much time. The courts presume that some sort of joint custody will be in the best interests of the child, if the parents agree to it, but how that joint custody will be divided in terms of hours or days can be a very painful question. And oddly, many parents make it more painful for themselves than they probably should.
Minnesota, like most other states, recognizes two main categories of child custody — legal and physical. Legal custody is the right to make long-term decisions about raising the child, such as choices of school and medical care. Physical custody is the right to live with the child.
Most child custody agreements today are based on the idea that the parents should share legal custody but one parent should have primary physical custody, so as to minimize the disruption that comes with moving the child from one home to another. However, many parents look at an agreement that grants sole physical custody to their ex-spouse as a personal slight. Thus, this becomes a big issue in divorce negotiations.
Looked at another way, however, the question of physical custody doesn’t really matter. Except in extreme cases, every parent has visitation rights even if the other parent is listed as having sole physical custody. Visitation rights can mean one afternoon a week or they can mean the child splits time between the two homes more or less equally. The parents can decide how to divvy up their time when they work out a parenting plan. And typically, the parents share legal custody even if the child is with one parent 90 percent of the time.
It’s important for Minnesota parents to stand up for their own interests when negotiating child custody matters, but the most important thing to keep in mind is the child’s best interest. Minnesota parents going through a child custody dispute should get help standing up for both their interests and the children’s.
Source: Star-Tribune, “Custody. Let’s Ditch the Labels and Talk About Something Meaningful,” Jason Brown, Aug. 13, 2013