Important FAQs about Child Custody in Minnesota

When you’re going through a divorce or separation, there are a lot of things to agree on and arrange between you and your soon-to-be-former partner. One of the issues that concern many people going through this process is child custody.

Child custody laws in Minnesota are important to understand if you have kids and have to decide how to co-parent with another person. In the state, child custody is an area of law that decides how and where the child or children live and how much time they spend with both parents. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about child custody in Minnesota.

What Is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

Legal and physical custody are terms you’ll likely hear often when deciding child custody issues, so it’s important to understand what they are and what the difference is between the two.

Legal custody refers to who can decide issues vital to a child’s life such as where they go to school, where they may go to church, and medical treatment they receive. Physical custody refers to the day-to-day responsibilities and care of the child and their physical residence.

There is a presumption under Minnesota law that parents will share legal custody of children and make decisions for their children. So, most parents share legal custody while one retains physical custody. There are exceptions to this, of course, especially if there are safety issues involving one parent and the child.

Who Gets Custody of Children in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, the court decides who gets custody of a child or children based on factors that have their best interest in mind. The statutory factors considered include:

  • The preference of the child if it is reasonable and they are of a sufficient age
  • Who has been the child’s primary caretaker
  • How close each parent is with the child
  • The interactions between the child and parents, as well as siblings
  • How long the child has lived in a stable environment and how desirable it is to maintain
  • The physical and mental health of all parties
  • How permanent the current family home is
  • The cultural background of the child
  • How well the parties can give affection, love, and guidance to the child
  • How encouraging each parent is for the child to maintain a relationship with the other parent

The court considers all of these things and then will award custody as it sees fit. Keep in mind, however, that there are no set rules for custody, which is why having an experienced attorney on your side is a good idea.

What Is Visitation in Minnesota and How Does It Work?

Even if a parent does not have physical custody of the child, they often are allowed to visit them to maintain the relationship. These visitations typically occur on a schedule and allow the other parent to spend time with their child or children.

What If the Parents Cannot Agree?

Duluth Child Custody Lawyers

The best path forward in custody arrangements is when both parties are in agreement, but that isn’t always the case. If child custody cannot be agreed upon, then the court steps in to make the decision. It’s in the parent’s best interest to negotiate custody rather than leave it up to the court in most cases.

What About Child Support?

The court determines child support based on the gross monthly income of both parents in conjunction with other expenses such as medical insurance and daycare. Parenting time is also a factor. The more parenting time one parent has, the less money they may have to pay in child support if they are not the one in physical custody of the child or children.


About the Author:

A former Assistant Public Defender for the Sixth Judicial District in Duluth and former staff attorney for the Indian Legal Assistance Program, Brent R. Olson is an experienced trial lawyer who has appeared in every Courthouse in the Sixth Judicial District and taken over three dozen cases to verdict. At LaCourse, Poole & Envall, Mr. Olson focuses on family law, workers’ compensation, and criminal defense. He has a strong belief in restorative justice and helped to develop the Domestic Violence Restorative Circles program.