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How Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN Prove Key Child Custody Factors in Court

by | Sep 3, 2019 | Family Law, Firm News

Minnesota law requires parenting time divisions in both original determinations and modification actions to uphold the best interests of the children. Since this concept is a bit nebulous, Minnesota law sets out a number of factors to follow, and the law recently changed on this point.

Most child custody determinations and modifications settle out of court, so lawyers in Hutchinson, MN must be mindful of these factors during settlement negotiations. Otherwise, the McLeod County judge may not approve the settlement agreement.

However, awareness alone is not enough. There must be sufficient evidence to support each point, especially if the matter goes to mediation or trial.

Each Child’s Regular Needs

Children need boundaries and rules. Even if they do not admit it, children also like boundaries and rules. Some parents are better than others at establishing rules like do your homework, brush your teeth, and go to bed on time. Additionally, children need consistency. As a result, the parenting time division in the temporary orders often finds its way into the final orders, even if the arrangement is not perfect.

Each Child’s Special Needs

Mental health, educational, medical, or other special needs usually require a doctor’s or specialist’s diagnosis. Additionally, a professional must recommend a course of treatment. If the special needs child has shown some progress while undergoing this physical therapy, special tutoring, or other treatment, that’s even better. Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN can point out that consistent treatment is ideal in uncertain circumstances, such as divorce.

Child’s Preference

Ideally, the child should sign a written document expressing a preference. If that’s not possible, testimonial evidence is probably sufficient. Indirect testimonial evidence (e.g. Timmy had fun when I took him to the zoo) is not terribly compelling, but it is probably relevant.

Domestic Abuse

Most of these factors have roughly equal weight. But domestic abuse could be a deal-breaker. Significantly, the abuse could have occurred many years ago and in a different family setting. However, old evidence may not rise to the deal-breaking level of current abuse. In any case, lawyers in Hutchinson, MN should always act to preserve your rights in domestic abuse situations. These allegations could have incredibly serious repercussions.

Parent’s Disability

This disability could be physical, mental, or emotional. Chemical dependence on an illegal substance also qualifies as a disability. The condition must have a material effect on the child’s emotional development or physical safety. Moderate tobacco use probably is not a concern, but moderate or excessive alcohol use could definitely be a concern.

Parent’s Past Participation in Child-Rearing Activities

Attending athletic contests, watching school plays, showing up at parent-teacher nights, and having lunch with a child at school are examples of parental participation. If parents cannot point to incidents like these, lawyers in Hutchinson, MN often have a hard time winning custody fights.

Family and Non-Family Relationships

Is the child particularly close to another child in the neighborhood or to a certain relative, like a maternal grandmother or paternal aunt? If that’s the case, many McLeod County family law judges will think twice about relocation a child, especially if the relocation is a long-distance move.

Contact with Both Parents

There is a presumption in Minnesota law that frequent, meaningful, and consistent contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child. If a parenting time division does not include such contact, unless domestic abuse or some other extreme circumstances are present, the proposed division may not be in the child’s best interests. This factor, like domestic abuse, is often make or break.

Parental Preference

The preference of each parent may be almost as important as a child’s preference. Sometimes, parents express their preferences directly, often in an agreed settlement document. Other times, the expression is indirect. As mentioned, parents who showed little interest in field trips and getting homework done often are not the best residential parents.

Ability to Co-Parent

Co-parenting starts with tolerating the other parent and being civil when the child is present, but that’s only a start. Additionally, a residential parent must actively encourage interaction between the child and non-residential parent. This encouragement could involve cajoling, bribing, or threatening the child if the child does not want to visit the other parent. Moreover, co-parenting means refraining from posting negative things about the other parent on social media. In fact, positive posts may be required, if a parent wants to make a strong case for primary custody.

Connect with an Experienced Attorney

Evidence in child custody disputes is essential. For a free consultation with an experienced lawyer in Hutchinson, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.