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A Hutchinson Family Law Layer Examines the Custody/Visitation Process

by | Apr 13, 2019 | Divorce, Family Law, Firm News

Although the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, it is still above 40 percent. Among subsequent marriages, the divorce rate is even higher. Not all these marriage dissolutions involve minor children, but most of them do.

In some states, divorce only partially resolves all the financial and emotional issues. But Hutchinson family law lawyers address all these things in one proceeding. As a result, family law matters in McLeod County are rather complex. While they are all different, most of them follow a common procedural pattern. Some basic knowledge helps our clients make better decisions about their family’s emotional and financial future.

Guiding Principles in a Custody/Visitation Dispute

These issues include both legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions, such as where the children will live, as well as the right to receive child support. Physical custody determines where the children spend their time. The standard every other weekend/every other holiday division is not as common as it used to be, but it still forms the basis for many parenting time arrangements.

According to Minnesota law, the parenting time division must be in the best interests of the children. Furthermore, there is a presumption that regular and predictable contact with both parents benefits children.

Sometimes, it is hard to break these overarching principles down and apply them to specific parenting plans. After all, every family is different. To make this process easier, Section 518.17 sets out a few factors to consider in these situations, and these factors have recently changed. Some highlights include:

  • Each child’s emotional, physical, medical, spiritual, cultural, and other needs,
  • Any special needs,
  • Child’s preference,
  • Parental preference,
  • History of domestic abuse, and
  • Ability to co-parent.

As outlined below, most parenting time disputes settle out of court. But a judge must still approve a settlement. That approval probably will not happen if one or more factors are substantially out of whack. For example, a judge may not approve an agreement that gives a physically abusive parent substantial parenting time, even if the incident is several decades old.

The Temporary Hearing

Hutchinson family law lawyers must hit the ground running in parenting time disputes. Things happen quickly, and it’s difficult to reverse decisions made early in the process.

At the temporary hearing, which usually occurs about two weeks into the case, the judge makes interim custody and support orders. Technically, these orders expire once the case is finalized. But as a practical matter, they are a blueprint for the final orders. Most children need consistency, so most judges want to leave the existing parenting time division in place, even if it is not perfect.

In other words, unless your Hutchinson family law lawyer is well-prepared and speaks up loudly at the temporary hearing, you may be playing from behind for the rest of the game. Comeback wins are certainly not impossible, but they are rather unlikely.

Social Services Investigations and Discovery

In most cases, McLeod County family law judges will not substantially change an interim custody plan unless compelling new evidence emerges. So, the social services investigation and discovery process are just as important as the temporary hearing.

Most judges appoint social workers in disputed parenting time cases. The social worker does some background research and, more importantly, interviews the children, parents, and other key people, such as doctors, teachers, and clergy.

The social worker then submits a report to the court, and this report usually includes a custody recommendation. That recommendation is not binding, but it does have considerable sway. Judges almost always accept the social worker’s conclusion.

Indirectly, a Hutchinson family law lawyer controls this process. Typically, the parties have considerable input in the social worker selection process. Some of these individuals are biased toward mothers or fathers. An attorney can also suggest certain approaches (e.g. please interview Dr. Smith) and prepare the parent for the sometimes-intimidating home study.

Speaking of medical records, these are very important during discovery, as they reveal a lot about a family. For example, some parents “doctor shop” by going to different physicians until they find one who agrees with their conclusions. Other doctors prescribe large amounts of strong drugs for rather minor conditions.

Sometimes, the parties conduct discovery by agreement, and the process is quick and cheap. Other times, disputes arise, and these disputes can be protracted and expensive.

How Do Hutchinson Family Law Lawyers Resolve Child Custody Disputes?

Mediation resolves most parenting time disputes and other family law cases in McLeod County.

Curiously, the vast majority of people believe that mediation will be a waste of time. If we could have talked out our problems, they reason, we would not have hired Hutchinson family law lawyers. But mediation is at least partially successful about 75 percent of the time. Mediation eliminates millions of dollars of legal fees and thousands of hours of litigation. These savings have significant benefits for area families.

Work with Assertive Attorneys

Preparation and understanding are very important in custody/visitation disputes. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson family law lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we’ll start working for you.