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Under Minnesota law, there are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody involves the right to make important decisions for the child, including decisions about education, health care, and religion. Physical custody is the right to make decisions about the routine day-to-day activities of the child and where the child resides. The concept of full custody in Minnesota generally means that one parent has sole physical or legal custody of a child.

Custody and parenting time issues are decided in many situations, including: (1) when married parents are filing for a divorce or legal separation; (2) unmarried parents who have signed a Recognition of Parentage (“ROP”); (3) in court actions to determine paternity cases, domestic abuse cases, custody cases; (3) when a child lives with and is cared for by a third party, such as a grandparent or legal guardian; and (4) when a child is involved in a “child in need of protection services” (“CHIPS”).

There are 12 factors that the courts in Minnesota takes into consideration when deciding on a custody case. The factors are listed below:

  • Who the child wishes to live with as well as what the parents want;
  • The preference of the child if they are of sufficient age;
  • The intimacy of the relationship between the child and each parent;
  • The interrelationships and interaction of the child with each parent as well as siblings;
  • How the child adjusts to the home, community, and school;
  • The desire for the child to maintain continuity in a stable environment;
  • The permanence of the proposed custodial home or an existing one;
  • The physical and mental health of those involved, with the exception of disabilities;
  • The disposition and the capacity of the parties involved to meet the child’s needs for affection, love, guidance, and to continue raising and educating the child in their religion, creed, or culture if one exists;
  • The cultural background of the child;
  • The impact of the child on the actions of an abuser if domestic abuse has occurred between parents; and
  • The disposition of the parents to permit and encourage frequent contact and support by the other parent with the child, except in cases of domestic abuse.

It is important to realize is that although popular opinion is that mothers tend to gain majority physical custody, fathers have equal rights in Minnesota.

In most cases, mothers and fathers are treated equally, and the court will place the child with the parent who best supports the child’s needs and provides the most stable living environment. Today, that generally means an equal division of parenting time – unless there is some really good reason not to do so.