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Basic understanding of Minnesota child custody law

When a married couple with children decides to dissolve their marriage, determining what is in the best interests of the children is understandably some of the most difficult aspects of the divorce. Often, couples are unable to reach mutual agreements and matters of child custody must be decided by a Family Court judge.

Minnesota statute, 518.17 Custody and Support of Children on Judgment, is the governing law used to determine child custody based on the best interest of the child. The term "best interests" is actually comprised of several factors that the court will comprehensively consider and evaluate to arrive at its determination. The following list contains a partial summary of several of the factors the court will review:

-- What does each spouse want regarding child custody?

-- If the child is of sufficient age, the court may inquire as to what the child wishes regarding custody.

-- The court will look at the level of intimacy between each parent and child.

-- The court will consider the length of time the child has stayed with the current caretaker.

-- The court will consider the fitness of each parent regarding child rearing and their ability to provide a stable environment for the child that is conducive to the child's long-term development.

Minnesota residents currently seeking to either retain or gain child custody should know that the above-mentioned list is not exhaustive. There are other factors the court may consider in its determination. That's why consultation with a family law professional could help identify factors that may need to be emphasized to the court or avoided altogether, depending on the situation. For example, a mother who currently has primary custody of the child and is hoping to relocate to another state might want to emphasis the fact that she is returning to her hometown where the child will be surrounded by and cared for by numerous extended family members.

Source: The Office of the Revisor of Statutes, "518.17 Custody and Support of Children on Judgment" Aug. 06, 2014

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