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August 28, 2015 at 8:59 AM

In Minnesota, custody and parenting time decisions are made based on what is in a child’s “best interests.” For many years, Minnesota has utilized factors known as the “Best Interest Factors” to help courts make decisions about what is best for children. The factors have evolved slowly throughout time; however, there has not been a major legislative change to the factors since 1978.  

As of August 1, 2015, however, child custody law in Minnesota changed dramatically. The “Best Interest Factors” were completely modified to create an analysis that is more child-centered and more focused on co-parenting. Now, in evaluating what the best interests of children are for the purpose of determining custody and parenting time, courts in Minnesota will consider the following factors:

 (1) a child's physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs, and the effect of the proposed arrangements on the child's needs and development;

 (2) any special medical, mental health, or educational needs that the child may have that may require special parenting arrangements or access to recommended services;

 (3) the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient ability, age, and maturity to express an independent, reliable preference;

 (4) whether domestic abuse, as defined in section 518B.01, has occurred in the parents' or either parent's household or relationship; the nature and context of the domestic abuse; and the implications of the domestic abuse for parenting and for the child's safety, well-being, and developmental needs;

 (5) any physical, mental, or chemical health issue of a parent that affects the child's safety or developmental needs;

 (6) the history and nature of each parent's participation in providing care for the child;

 (7) the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child's ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time;

 (8) the effect on the child's well-being and development of changes to home, school, and community;

 (9) the effect of the proposed arrangements on the ongoing relationships between the child and each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life;

 (10) the benefit to the child in maximizing parenting time with both parents and the detriment to the child in limiting parenting time with either parent;

 (11) except in cases in which domestic abuse as described in clause (4) has occurred, the disposition of each parent to support the child's relationship with the other parent and to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent; and

 (12) the willingness and ability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of their child; to maximize sharing information and minimize exposure of the child to parental conflict; and to utilize methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child.

Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1 (2015). (Go to this link for a more detailed breakdown of the history and the meaning of the new factors: http://family-in-law.com/unpacking-minnesotas-new-best-interest-factors/).

If you have any questions about custody and parenting time issues, contact our office for a free consultation. 


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