There are two type of custody under Minnesota law: (1) physical custody; and (2) legal custody. Physical custody involves the day to day care of a child, while legal custody involves key decisions concerning a child's education, healthcare and religion. The "best interest of the child" standard applies.

Written by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury in 1981, the bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In has become a go-to resource for working through challenging negotiations. As it turns out, the “getting to yes” methodology can also be very helpful in mediating difficult divorce agreements. Below are some key insights that we can apply to divorce negotiations, based on the book’s five-point method.

1. Separate the people from the problem

When you view your ex as “the problem” or vice versa, negotiating a settlement becomes much more difficult. In truth, there are specific issues between you that are causing the split—not any one person. Focusing on the issues rather than placing blame takes you much further toward a solution that works for both.

2. Focus on interests, not positions

When you simply take opposing positions in a disagreement, one person “wins” while the other “loses.” Instead, try focusing on the interests of each person: what do you want in a settlement? What does your ex want? Is there any position you could take that could serve both interests?

3. Generate options for mutual gain

Once you’ve identified each person’s interests in the divorce, start imagining a number of alternatives in which both people stand to gain, turning a win-lose into a win-win scenario. This is key to turning combat into negotiation because both of your interests are now being served.

4. Insist on objective criteria

When contemplating the alternative solutions, you must base the consideration on an objective set of criteria. This is the more difficult part of the negotiation, because both parties will likely give up something they want. Here is where a neutral mediator can be most useful because he/she has no emotional investment in the solution.

5. Know your “BATNA”

Should negotiations fail or you find yourself losing too much ground, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is your baseline or safety net—the “worst case scenario” or default course of action you must take if you can’t come to agreement. Knowing your BATNA gives you a fair point of leverage in negotiations as the low point that both parties wish to avoid, helping you both stay motivated to come up with a better solution in the divorce agreement.

In a military divorce, the nonmilitary spouse likely has not worked outside the home or possibly only held down part-time employment in order to accommodate the lifestyle with moves and lengthy deployments.

On the one hand, nonmilitary spouses often struggle to find employment because of those factors. On the other hand, they can frequently build strong cases for child custody. After all, the military professional’s frequent deployments may make child care complicated if not impossible.

Considering the Best Interests of the Child

The judge will consider what’s in the best interests of your children. If he or she determines that military-related moves could hurt the children emotionally and socially or disrupt schooling, sports, medical treatment or other activities, the judge might award custody to the parent who is less likely to move.

Special Considerations

Since both parties understand the need for cooperation in the event of sudden deployments, they should work with a knowledgeable family law attorney who can provide them with good advice on how to proceed.

Similar to a civilian divorce, a military custody plan should consider diverse factors, such as:

•    The age of the children
•    The possibility of deployment and a plan of action
•    A plan of action for a return from deployment and
•    Visitation in the event of a stateside or international deployment.

In addition, assess the custody plan according to the age of each child and future considerations. You might need to make adjustments based on a different job, remarriage or other relevant criteria.

Collecting Child Support

In some cases, the parties will need a temporary order to address the payment of daily expenses during the separation until the divorce is finalized. Both parents must support their children, and the court will consider the following factors when ordering payments:

•    The number of children
•    Any special needs
•    Shared custody arrangements
•    The number and frequency of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent and
•    Other relevant factors.

The military enforces the collection of child support via the following methods:

•    Wage garnishments
•    Voluntary or involuntary allotments and
•    Court orders.

Addressing Custody Matters in Your Military Divorce

Due to the relocation of military parents, custody issues can lead to especially sensitive conversations and debates. Our experienced and skilled family law team can suggest solutions; call us for help at 763-323-6555.

Are marriage and divorce different for the very rich and very poor? One oft-cited statistic is that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but that doesn’t account for income disparity, nor does it account for the fact that many divorces are from second and third marriages. Still, a look at marriage rates in recent years reveals  that fewer people are getting married overall.

There are many reasons why fewer people seek marriage today, which also means fewer people are getting divorced. Interestingly, when the recession hit in 1998, that economic change sparked an upsurge in divorce. That fact should come as no surprise, since arguing over money is one of the main causes of divorce, among both the rich and the poor.

While arguments over money obviously can lead to marital strife and the break down of communication, the story is not so simple. People don’t just get divorced because they lack resources. Certainly, empty pockets add to the stress of raising a family, and that can lead to poor families splitting as well as to behaviors (such as criminal acts or addiction) that further fray relationships. However, there’s a wrinkle: many poor people simply can’t afford to divorce… or at least they believe they cannot afford to separate.

Another cultural phenomenon may be relevant to our question. Over the last 50 years, women have been joining the workforce in droves. As a result, women have seen their incomes go up. Interestingly, in homes where the woman earns more than her husband, the couple seems to be at higher risk of divorce. Could new gender economics somehow contribute to some divorces?

Celebrity divorces get a lot of media attention, but are celebrities even a good proxy for the “wealthy”? Perhaps the complexities of fame dictate how and why celebrity couples split more so than fortune.

Marriage and divorce are complicated matters. It’s difficult to say which socioeconomic class divorces more often, but we can say married couples are more financially stable and that divorce (in general) leads to wealth reduction. It appears from the data we have that the most financially secure are people who get married and stay married.

Our Minnesota divorce lawyers can help you understand your options and develop a clear strategic approach to meeting your needs and protecting your children. Please call us at 763-323-6555 to discuss your situation.

In Minnesota, you can file a document with the state to recognize a man as father of your child even if you aren’t married to that man. It’s a voluntary action, and both adult parties must sign the document. If you know who the father of your child is, and he is willing to be recognized as the child’s father, the ROP offers a less expensive option than paternity testing. You can bypass many of the typical legal hoops you have to jump through to prove paternity.

It’s important that you and the father understand that signing the Recognition of Parentage form does not give the father any visitation or custody rights. It simply establishes the legal relationship between the man and the child.

The Benefits of ROP to the Father and Mother

Once the ROP is in place, the father can then petition the court to request visitation and custody rights. It also gives you the right to petition the court to force the father to provide financial support for the child, and you can obtain medical information about the father. The father also has the right to include the child on his medical and dental insurance policies. Here are the potential downsides; both parties lose the right to:

1. Genetic testing to prove fatherhood
2. Have an attorney represent them in court
3. Request a trial to prove paternity

After filing for an ROP, you can file another form to have it revoked within 60 days. If circumstances permit, you can petition a court to revoke your ROP after 60 days but within the first year, but this strategy is substantially more difficult to accomplish. If the man who signed your ROP is not the biological father of your child, and you have genetic testing to prove it, you have six months after obtaining that proof to revoke the Recognition of Parentage.

If you want to know more about ROP and paternity testing, contact a Minnesota family law attorney at 763-323-6555 right now.

Child custody is a complex issue. When parents dissolve a marriage, if they can’t agree on whom the children will live with, then the court must decide. How is that determined? Several factors are considered.

•    The most important concerns are the interests of the child. Historically, that weighted a court’s decision in favor of the mother. In recent years, gender equity has shifted legal priorities.
•    If either parent relinquishes custodial rights or requests the other parent have sole custody, then that is considered.
•    Where things get sticky is when both parents insist on having sole custody. In that case, the court must settle the matter. Often, the decision boils down to which parent is better able to provide for education, medical attention, a suitable lifestyle, and connection to the family religion.

Factors include:

◦    Finances – Which parent has the better job, most stable employment, and/or highest income or savings?
◦    Living Situation – Has either parent remarried, or is there another romantic partner in the picture? What kind of living conditions will the children be subjected to? Has one of the parents moved out of the area?
◦    Religion – Who is better able to provide stable religious training? If parents are of different religions, have they chosen to educate the children in one religion over the other? If one parent is religious, and the other isn’t, the court may consider that in light of other factors.
◦    Dangers – Has either parent been convicted of a crime or abused drugs or alcohol? Are there other concerns, such as a history of abusive behavior or a volatile home environment?

Courts rarely award legal custody to step-parents; however, it does happen. All things are considered in light of the best interests of the child.

Are you fighting for custody of your children? Contact an experienced Minnesota custody lawyer at 763-323-6555 for a private, confidential consultation.

In the months or years following a divorce, as life situations change for parents and children, renegotiations of child custody and visitation agreements are quite common. However, if you enter into negotiations ill-prepared, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money while making it even more of a challenge to renegotiate down the road. Here are five big mistakes people often make during child custody/visitation renegotiations, and how to avoid them.

1. Offering no change of circumstance

Remember, the court has previously determined child visitation and custody rights for specific reasons, taking certain factors into account. If you ask your ex or a judge for a change in these rights without offering clear evidence that these deciding factors have changed, your request to renegotiate is likely to fall flat.

2. Failure to abide by the current agreement

If you have withheld visitation from the other parent without just cause, or if you have disobeyed any court order related to custody and visitation, you’re coming to the table with two strikes already against you. Neither your ex nor a judge will look favorably on your request to change the terms of custody if you’ve not been showing respect for the current terms.

3. Failure to clarify exactly what you want in concrete terms

If you are unhappy with your current child custody agreement, chances are it’s because you failed to be specific about terms the first time around. (For example, if you didn’t address who gets the kids during certain holidays, that lack of clarity might now be a point of contention with your ex.) Custody renegotiation is a perfect time to fill in some of those gaps; if you don’t tie up loose ends, you’re wasting an opportunity.

4. Using renegotiation (and the kids) as a tool for vengeance

In particularly contentious divorces, one parent might be tempted to extend the custody battle as a way of getting back at the other. This is a bad idea because it turns the children into pawns in your personal dispute. Since the court’s goal is the best interest of the children, anything that demonstrates you are not acting in their best interests will backfire on you. Just don’t do it.

5. Not seeking legal representation

Child custody is a nuanced and tricky business. If you attempt to renegotiate without the help of a skilled attorney, you’re likely to be just as unhappy with the outcome than you were the first time. Always seek professional legal counsel before trying to renegotiate child custody and visitation agreements.

Divorce is arguably harder on children than it is on adults, particularly when the divorce necessitates a move. If the children of divorce are forced to switch schools, they must leave behind their friends and favorite teachers. This can be a challenge for even the most outgoing children. Thankfully, there are many ways you can help your kids navigate this difficult transition:

1. Enroll your kids in activities and sports outside of school.

Sports teams and other extracurricular activities are great for introducing your children to their potential new best friends. Little League, for example, will allow your kid to meet a whole new group of other kids who share the same interest. By the time school starts in the fall, your kids will have a group of friends eager to help them transition to their new school district.

2. Introduce them to the school during off hours.

A new school environment can be very intimidating for kids. Ask one of the school’s administrators if your kids can visit their new school when no other children are there. This will prevent them from feeling lost and helpless on the first day of school.

3. Avoid the bus for the first few days.

The school bus can be a scary place for kids, especially when they don’t know anybody on their route. Skip this anxiety-inducing orientation by dropping your kids off at school in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. If this is not possible, try to get in touch with other families on the bus route before school begins.

4. Help your kids keep in contact with their old friends.

Thanks to social media and the internet, it is easier than ever to stay in contact with loved ones from afar. Encourage your kids to communicate with their friends online, and if possible, arrange for them to get together during the weekend.

5. Talk to your kids about the transition.

Sometimes, the easiest way to help your children is through simple communication. Listen to any issues they may have, and work with them to find the best possible solution.

Child custody exchanges are outlined in the custody agreement issued by the court. They are generally routine, taking place at the same time and place and on a regular schedule. If one parent regularly refuses to let the other parent take the children at these court-appointed exchange times, that parent could face contempt of court charges. But there are exceptions.

One such exception is if your spouse shows up for the exchange appearing to be drunk or high. If that is the case, then you’ll want to protect your children.

First, note the behavior that causes you to believe your spouse is drunk or using drugs. Is he or she driving a vehicle while under the influence? If so, that is obviously a serious situation that could endanger your child’s life. You should call your local law enforcement agency to report the violation.

If your spouse is not the driver, but you suspect he or she may be drunk or high, then you’ll have to weigh carefully whether you feel that your children are in danger. If so, you do not have to let your children go with the spouse under the influence. If your spouse has a history of abuse or has been arrested in the past for violence, then that history increases the potential danger to your children. You should call law enforcement and be prepared to explain why you are not allowing the exchange to take place.

Police officers are trained to administer on-the-spot substance tests to determine if an individual is violating any laws. Be prepared to let your children go with your spouse if the police give the go ahead.

If your spouse is determined to be drunk or high, he or she may be arrested or given a warning, depending on the severity of the offense. If an arrest occurs, you have the right to request a copy of the arrest report for your custody battle. Be sure to call your attorney as soon as the situation permits.

Perhaps you just received a transfer offer to another state from your employer with a significant pay raise and even more opportunities for advancement. Or maybe you and a business partner (or new boyfriend or girlfriend) want to leave the area for a change of pace. But if you are divorced, and you have joint custody of your child, what should you do? How will leaving Minnesota affect your child custody arrangements?

In Minnesota, the courts do not let a parent leave the state unless the other parent gives his or her permission. However, you might obtain a court order that permits the move. When a parent submits a request to move, the court will consider numerous factors before granting permission, such as:

•    Financial concerns;
•    Whether the moving parent is the primary caregiver;
•    The reason for relocating, especially if the purpose of the move is to hinder the child’s relationship with the other parent;
•    How the move will affect the child, including his or her age, medical needs, and education and special needs;
•    What the child wants, depending on his or her age;
•    The distance of the move;
•    Whether the move will enhance the quality of life for the parent and the child;
•    The child’s overall welfare and safety;
•    The status of the parent’s relationship with his or her son or daughter; and
•    Whether the parent will be able to continue that relationship out-of-state and under what circumstances.

The parent who wants to move must prove that his or her reasons are in the best interests of the child. Failing to adhere to these guidelines could justify an immediate order changing parental custody until the court schedules a hearing. All that said, if the parent is leaving due to domestic violence, then the burden of proof to prohibit the move falls on the opposing parent.

The parent who leaves will need to be willing to adjust the visitation schedule to accommodate the move as well as subsidize additional transportation costs. However, the judge will generally place a high priority on the child’s need for regular contact with both parents.

Maybe you just separated from your spouse, and you’re confused about how to share custody this Thanksgiving. Or perhaps you suspect the other parent has violated your custody arrangement by planning a trip to his or her parents’ home for the holiday. In either case, you’re feeling stressed out and confused about how to react.

Thanksgiving sparks challenges for many families, even those not embroiled in child custody disputes. With good planning, however, you can create a fun experience for your children and enjoy the holiday. Ideally, you want to extend this sense of grace and gratitude. As Robert Caspar Lintner once observed, “Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.”

Here are four strategies.

  1. Be creative and flexible with your calendaring

Holidays notoriously spur calendar fights, even among the happily married. Grandparents, for instance, famously jockey over who gets to see the grandkids, when, and under what circumstances. Fortunately, you’re not helpless. Here’s how to calendar better:

  • Review your custody arrangement. What is required of you and of the other parent? Knowing these ground rules helps you negotiate. Speak with your attorney if you’re confused or unsure of the rules.
  • Reach out. If you’re on good terms, meet with the other parent (in person or virtually) to negotiate scheduling concerns.
  • Use scheduling apps to stay organized and in communication.
  • Be empathetic. Focus on the other parent’s feelings and needs. What does he or she want, and why? By attending to what’s motivating the other person, you’ll be a better negotiator.
  • Look for win-win solutions. There’s only so much time in a day. Still, you can “expand the pie.” Maybe, for instance, you let your ex take the kids for Thanksgiving in exchange for a special vacation “weekend with dad” in January.
  1. Identify and meet your needs.

Parents struggling with custody often neglect self-care. Don’t! Remember the “airplane rule” for parents – you must put on your own oxygen mask before you help your child with his or hers. Spend a day at the spa de-stressing with massages and facials, or plan a night out with friends in town for the holidays. Children benefit when their parents are healthier and less stressed, so don’t feel guilty about taking time to take care of yourself.

  1. Be positive and expect the unexpected.

No matter how much effort you put into planning for the holidays, there’s only so some control you have. As President Einsenhower famously said: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless.”

The unexpected is okay. If you burn the turkey, laugh about it and make the holiday memorable by ordering Chinese instead. If your co-parent changes plans on you last-minute, try to see it as an opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving twice—start a new family tradition called “Thanks Again”!

  1. Maintain a support system.

When dealing with a custody dispute or tough divorce, it’s natural to feel lonely, even despondent, over the holidays. Surround yourself with people who love and encourage you. Get help with your parenting responsibilities. Recruit your older kids to pitch in.