Prior to 2015, Hutchinson child custody lawyers dealt with a complex array of child custody factors, especially if the divorce order include a joint custody decree with an every other weekend/every other holiday-type parenting time split. At that time, such divisions were basically the only ones that McLeod County family judges approved.
Then, after a cadre of lawyers, experts, and family advocates examined the issue, the Legislature significantly re-worked the list of child custody factors in Minnesota. The new, streamlined list is much easier for lay people to understand, and quite frankly, easier for Hutchinson child custody lawyers to understand as well.
Section 518.17 now contains the following factors to be used in parenting time determinations. There are typically two issues in these determinations. Legal custody means the right to make important decisions, such as where the children will live, where they will go to school, and so on. Physical custody is the parenting time division. Minnesota law presumes that children benefit from frequent and consistent contact with both their biological parents.
Childrens’ Regular Needs
Everyone has “physical, emotional, cultural, [and] spiritual” needs. Additionally, children rely exclusively on their caregivers to provide food, clothing, shelter, companionship, education, and other basic needs. This overall factor essentially establishes the framework for all the other listed child custody factors.
Childrens’ Special Needs
This new factor addresses the uniqueness of each child. Some children have medical, educational, emotional, and other needs over and above those of other children. Sometimes, one parent is better suited emotionally, financially, and otherwise to meet these unique needs.
This factor is surprisingly subjective. Generally, the law sets specific milestone ages. For example, according to Minnesota law, children under 16 are too immature to drive a car. But children who reach that age are mature enough to handle that responsibility. In terms of this factor, Hutchinson child custody lawyers can take into account both physical age and a child’s ability “to express an independent, reliable preference.”
Some parents have issues, such as a substance abuse problem, which prevent them from being good parents at all times. In these cases, judges often restrict access to children and also order the parent to attend some kind of therapy. If the parent overcomes the physical, mental, or other disability, a Hutchinson child custody lawyer usually files a motion to modify the parenting plan.
Many parents willingly embrace the role of weekend mom or dad. So, “the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child” is a perfectly legitimate inquiry. This factor basically expands on the previous one. Whereas fitness is usually an objective matter, preference is much more subjective.
Prior Domestic Abuse
Whether or not there is a criminal or other court record, pretty much every household in McLeod County is abusive to some extent. At one time or another, nearly everyone gets angry and says or does something they regret. Therefore, this factor involves not so much the presence or absence of domestic abuse, but the extent of that abuse. Obviously, not all anger outbursts have the same impact on the children.
In many households, the “caregiver” and “breadwinner” roles overlap, as each parent helps out in each area. But that is not always the case. In some families, each parent fills a fairly distinct role. If Mom has always been immersed in work and cared little about attending school plays, it’s hard for her to be a residential parent after a divorce. Sometimes this factor has a great deal of weight, and sometimes it does not.
Childrens’ Emotional Relationships
Divorce always changes family dynamics. So, much like the domestic abuse factor, the issue is how that change affects the children. This factor often comes up more in modification actions than in divorce actions. The Brady Bunch kids seamlessly blended with one another, but that is not always the case.
Consistency for the Children
As far as many Hutchinson child custody lawyers are concerned, this factor may be one of the most significant ones. Many judges are reluctant to allow a parent to move the children out of state, or even out of the county. Since divorce involves so much change, many people feel it’s best to limit the change as much as possible. Then again, children are very resilient and a change of scenery is sometimes best, so this coin definitely has two sides.
Parenting Time Involvement
This amorphous factor often refers to the emotional relationship between a parent and a child. Sometimes the relationship is close, and sometimes it is not. No court order can direct a child to feel an attachment toward a parent. This factor often changes over time, which is why Hutchinson child custody lawyers often rely on it in modification matters.
Intent to Co-Parent
If one parent is obstinate and stiff-necked during the divorce, many McLeod County family court judges assume that behavior will continue. Parents who refuse to acknowledge the important role of the other parent are usually not good residential parent candidates. Such an arrangement sets the stage for future conflicts.
Ability to Co-Parent
Sometimes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Some parents lack basic problem-solving skills or have a hard time controlling their anger. If this factor changes, and it often does as people mature, a motion to modify may be in order.
Team Up with a Dedicated Attorney
Attorneys and parents must balance a number of factors to come up with a sustainable parenting plan that’s in the best interests of the children. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson child custody lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After hours visits are available.