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.

Blended families are increasingly common, especially as many parents bypass marriage altogether. Whether parents split through divorce or legal separation, their family’s classification as blended can cause unique complications. Below, we examine some of the most common issues Minnesota parents face when divorcing for the second or third time:

Custody And Visitation

For blended families, arrangements regarding parenting time are rarely straightforward — especially when stepchildren are involved. If you or your spouse brought children from another relationship into your marriage, visitation and custody are by no means guaranteed following divorce. In resolving these issues, courts consider whether the stepparent has legally adopted his or her stepchildren — and whether visitation would be in the children’s best interests. Petitioners must demonstrate clear emotional ties that reflect parent-child relationships. Furthermore, petitioning stepparents must prove that visitation rights would not harm the child’s relationship with his or her biological parents.

Child Support

In addition to impacting visitation arrangements, second or third divorces can hold significant financial implications — namely, in regards to child support. Minnesota courts may take into account both children from the currently dissolving marriage and those from previous relationships. Parentage and step-parentage also play a critical role; stepparents may owe child support if they have legally adopted their stepchildren.

Given the complexity of divorce in blended families, it is absolutely imperative that you work with a skilled family lawyer. Whether your primary concerns involve child custody, visitation, or support, your attorney can help you arrive at the best possible outcome for both you and your family — no matter its size or scope.

Whether you’re on your first, second, or third divorce, the team at the Brown Law Offices can help. Get in touch today to learn more about our approach to blended family divorces.

 

Whether you’ve voluntarily ended your rights as a parent or suffered involuntary termination of parental rights, your life is about to change. Not only will your relationship with your child evolve considerably (or cease to exist), your financial situation may also look considerably different now that you’re freed of your previous rights and obligations. Read on to learn about the surprising relationship between the termination of parental rights and state assistance in Minnesota:

How Termination of Parental Rights Works in Minnesota

Before you understand how terminating your rights as a parent will impact your eligibility for state assistance, it is important that you understand what else is at stake.

Termination can occur voluntarily or involuntarily. Typically, involuntary termination occurs when the court has deemed you negligent as a parent. Either approach to termination will only occur if the court believes it is in the best interests of your child.

How Termination of Parental Rights Impacts State Assistance

First, it’s important to understand: termination of parental rights does not serve as a legitimate means of avoiding child support payments to a former partner. Courts generally regard maintaining relationships with both parents as in children’s best interests, so you aren’t likely to obtain terminated rights unless clear evidence of your incompetence as a parent exists. In some cases, however, termination of an absentee parent can improve the potential for obtaining assistance, particularly if the absentee parent neglects to provide mandated support. In other cases, termination may occur so that a stepparent can adopt the child.

Terminating your rights may impact your eligibility for various assistance programs. Often, assistance is calculated based on the number of individuals or dependents in your household. If your rights are terminated, however, your child will no longer be deemed part of your household.

As you proceed with your termination of parental rights case, don’t hesitate to seek counsel from an attorney you trust. The Brown Law Offices can help; reach out today to learn how.

The holidays can be a minefield for any family, but they’re particularly tricky for ex-spouses who must interact for the sake of their children. Try as you might, ignoring your ex just isn’t an option. You’ll find it far easier to keep your cool if you frame every interaction as an opportunity to set a positive example for your kids. The following etiquette best practices should also help you get through this tough time of year:

Compromise on Gifts

In some families, gift giving quickly becomes a competition to garner the child’s favor. Other parents prefer to provide gifts jointly — but this can also lead to conflict. Discuss gifts well in advance to get an idea for what your children want and what monetary value is acceptable to both parents. If you take issue with a particular gift, don’t gripe about it during holiday celebrations; wait until later to bring it up between the two of you.

Attend Holiday Programs

Sometimes, trading off on holidays is the only option, especially as you deal with large family gatherings in various locations. With school and extracurricular programs, however, missing is not an option. That holiday chorale or Nutcracker performance might not seem like a big deal, but your child will be crushed if you skip. You don’t need to sit next to your ex, but don’t be afraid to attend if he or she is also in the audience.

Don’t Shut Out the Former In-Laws

Your children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins should continue to play a key role in their lives, even after the pain of divorce. Scheduling won’t be easy as you strive to carve out time for multiple holiday functions, but it’s important to save time for both sides of the family.

Whether you’re in the midst of divorce or dealing with the aftermath, you can benefit from compassionate counsel and proactive representation. You’ll find both at the Brown Law Offices. Reach out today to learn more.

In Minnesota, as in most states, a variety of factors are considered when determining custody. These are covered in detail in MN Statute 518.14. Read on to learn more about this important statute and its impact on Minnesota custody proceedings:

Best Interests of the Child

Above all else, Minnesota courts make custody decisions based on what is deemed in the child’s best interests. What, exactly, constitutes a child’s best interests can vary significantly from one family to the next. Generally, however, courts consider:

  • How proposed arrangements might impact the child’s physical and emotional needs
  • Special needs regarding medical care or mental health
  • The child’s reasonable preference if he or she is of sufficient age and ability to make such a decision
  • Current or past domestic abuse in either household
  • Each parent’s emotional ties to the child — and the ability to maintain such ties following divorce

What About Joint Custody?

MN 518.14 specifically addresses the issue of joint custody, highlighting that courts should hold no presumption for or against such an arrangement — unless evidence indicates a history of domestic abuse in either household. The statute also mentions that parenting time need not be exactly equal for parents to receive joint custody.

Parental Rights Granted By Minnesota Courts

Regardless of custodial designation, Minnesota courts typically grant both parents the following rights:

  • Access to school, medical, and police reports
  • Notification of accidents or serious injuries
  • Notification if the child is the victim of a crime
  • Reasonable electronic contact with the child

No matter your preferred strategy for resolving custody issues, you can count on the Brown Law Offices for strong legal representation. Reach out at your earliest convenience to learn more about our approach to family law.

 

As the grandparent of children impacted by divorce, you’re understandably concerned about your future role in your grandchildren’s lives. Thankfully, it may still be possible to maintain a strong relationship with your grandchildren. Read on to learn the basics of grandparent rights in Minnesota:

When Are Visitation Rights Awarded to Grandparents?

In Minnesota, it is generally presumed that grandparents will enjoy contact with their grandchildren during their own child’s visitation time. This is not always possible, however. For example, grandparents may seek visitation rights in court if their grandchild’s parent passes away. Likewise, grandparents can obtain visitation rights if their grandchildren have resided with them for at least twelve months. Visitation may also be possible for grandparents significantly involved in aspects of the dissolution process such as custody or parentage proceedings.

In addition to abiding by the restrictions outlined above, Minnesota courts only award grandparents and other third-party individuals visitation rights if they are deemed in the best interest of the child. Courts typically do not award grandparent visitation if they believe it will negatively impact parent-child relationships.

What About Grandparent Custody?

Grandparent custody is often confused with visitation, but they are entirely different matters. While many grandparents simply want to spend time with their grandchildren, some may seek custody if they feel that parent custody could prove harmful.

In Minnesota, grandparent custody cases typically fall under the scope of third-party custody. To achieve custody, grandparents must demonstrate that children have been abandoned, neglected, or have otherwise suffered extraordinary circumstances that place grandparent custody above the court’s stated priority of maintaining strong parent-child relationships.

Divorce should not harm your relationship with your grandchildren. Look to the team at the Brown Law Offices for assistance with grandparent custody and visitation.

Regardless of custody and parenting time, divorce is bound to mess with your child care schedule. You may be forced to work extra hours to make ends meet…and when you’re not on the job, you can probably be found in mediation or court. If you don’t already have a nanny with plenty of time available to watch your children, you’ll want to find one sooner than later. Keep these strategies in mind as you begin this important search:

Ask Loved Ones For Recommendations

In an internet age, word of mouth remains one of your best tools for finding quality child care. Ask friends, coworkers, siblings, or even past nannies for recommendations.

Do Your Homework

If you seek a nanny online, take a close look at LinkedIn and other social media accounts. This will grant you a better feel for your future nanny’s credentials and conduct.

Aim For Consistency

As you seek a nanny, maintain scheduling and consistency as chief priorities. Your child’s routine will see enough shakeups as is; constant changes in nannies (or their timeline) will make this period more stressful than it needs to be.

Let prospective nannies know of your family’s situation. Be upfront about scheduling demands.

Including Child Care in Your Parenting Plan

If you work with your ex to develop a parenting plan, highlight nanny and babysitting arrangements as a key consideration. Your parenting plan can stipulate notification or even approval of new child care providers. Unless specifically specified in your plan, you’ll hold little sway in how your ex handles child care during his or her parenting time.

As you move forward with your parenting plan and other custody considerations, don’t hesitate to contact the Brown Law Offices at 763-323-6555. Our team will carefully guide you through every step of the custody process.

In our last post on custody in Minnesota, we explored the various factors used to determine custody and parenting time. Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to delve into specifics regarding paternity, residency requirements, and parenting plans.

How Paternity Impacts Custody

While the Minnesota marriage rate remains higher than that in most states, it’s quickly dropping — in part because more couples opt for cohabitation. Whether parents live together or apart, children conceived out of wedlock are not automatically presumed related to the father. To achieve custody or parenting time, the father must officially establish paternity. Otherwise, state law mandates that the mother receives sole custody.

Residency Requirements

To qualify for a Minnesota judge’s declaration in custody decisions, your child must have resided in the state with a parent or eligible guardian for six consecutive months. Exceptions sometimes apply in emergency situations.

Changing Custody

Custody arrangements in Minnesota can be altered following a court order, but only if the court deems that the family’s situation has changed significantly — and that a new order will benefit the child. When determining possible changes, courts only examine new circumstances.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans help divorced or separated parents determine the specifics of child care. Topics covered may include education, emergency medical treatment, residential arrangements, and more. The state provides a parenting plan worksheet that can be used as a blueprint for parenting discussions or as a tool to prepare for courtroom proceedings.

Still confused about custody and visitation in Minnesota? You’re certainly not alone. Don’t hesitate to seek additional information from our knowledgeable and caring team at the Brown Law Offices. Call 763-323-6555 today to schedule a consultation.

Custody is often the most emotional aspect of a Minnesota divorce. While some couples inherently agree that their children are better off living with just one parent, others bicker endlessly over parenting time. These spats can be minimized, in part, by a better understanding of how custody works in the state of Minnesota. Below, we review a few basic ideas you should understand before proceeding with custody negotiations:

Types of Custody

First, it’s important to understand custody categories. As in many states, Minnesota divides the concept into two main branches: physical and legal custody.

Physical custody is probably what you picture when you think of custody. In Minnesota, this term refers to where the child resides and who makes day-to-day decisions about routine activities.

Legal custody involves major decisions about the child’s education, health care, and religious upbringing. Many Minnesota parents split legal custody but designate a sole physical custodian.

While parents with multiple children often maintain similar custody plans, arrangements could realistically be different for each child.

How Is Custody Determined In Minnesota?

Some parents determine custody on their own through mediation. Many, however, defer to the state’s court system. Minnesota courts focus on the best interests of the child — a surprisingly complicated concept that can take several factors into account. These include:

  • The child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
  • Special needs regarding physical or mental health.
  • The child’s preferences.
  • The presence of abuse in the child’s household.
  • The child’s relationships with parents, siblings, and other family members.

Clearly, no two Minnesota custody cases look exactly alike. As you strive for a positive outcome, think carefully about each child’s best interests.

At this difficult time, you can lean on the Brown Law Offices for support. You’ll never doubt that we care about your family. Call 763-323-6555 today to schedule a case consultation.

Economic vitality, friendly neighbors, great schools…you love everything about Minnesota. Your ex, unfortunately, disagrees. Whether your former flame seeks a warmer climate or new job opportunities, you’re worried an upcoming move will tear you away from your kids. But is this move really cause for concern? Read on to find out.

Is Your Ex Even Allowed to Move?

As a Minnesota co-parent, you cannot legally move your kids out of state without express permission from your ex. The only alternative: a court mandate. Courts base this decision on the child’s best interests. Distance plays a huge factor — moving to River Falls is not a big deal, but San Diego could be. Another major consideration? Emotional ties. Be real — are your kids equally close to both parents?

Other factors courts take into account:

  • The age and emotional maturity of the children. Some kids can handle a big move better than others. Older children express strong opinions, which factor into the final decision.
  • Relationships with other family members, such as grandparents.
  • Whether the moving parent has a history of trying to keep shared kids away from the other parent.

Should You Grant Permission?

You feel betrayed by your ex’s desire to move. Don’t let difficult emotions prompt an ultimatum. Instead, step into your ex’s shoes for a moment. Is this person struggling to find work in Minnesota? Do most of your family members or in-laws live elsewhere? Which approach truly benefits your children?

Of course, your opinion matters too. Respectfully share your concerns. Don’t forget to chat with your kids — but don’t be offended if they also want to move.

If necessary, discuss these issues with a counselor. Understand the full situation before you agree or disagree to a move. Remember, if your ex presents a compelling argument, the court may decide against you. Your ex holds the burden of proof, but you should be prepared to provide evidence indicating that moving is a bad idea.

The Brown Law Offices, P.A. can help you navigate the complications of co-parenting after divorce. Reach out today to discuss your co-parenting situation.

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.