Divorcing parents frequently hear that judges use the best interests of the child standard when making child-related determinations. Usually, those parents also believe that settlements that provide them with full physical custody and more parenting time overall automatically meet the best interests of the child.
Our Minnesota divorce lawyers recognize that meeting the best interests of the child involves decisions that are not always fully objective. While the MN courts attempt to use facts and figures to make these decisions, parents must understand the criteria they consider — and present evidence to support their cases.
MN Statute Attempts to Define the Best Interests
MN statute 518.17 defines the factors that judges consider when evaluating the best interests of the children as it applies in custody and parenting time decisions. These factors include:
- The child’s needs: Judges consider how a proposed arrangement might affect the child’s physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual and other needs, along with any special educational or medical needs.
- Preference of the child: When deemed to be of sufficient maturity, the courts may consider the preferences of a child to some degree.
- Parental history: Any indication of past domestic abuse, along with parental physical, mental or chemical health issues weigh heavily on judicial decisions.
- Child care abilities: Judges examine both parents’ participation in child care, along with their willingness and ability to meet the child’s full range of needs. Equally important is the parents’ dedication to maintaining a cooperative spirit by sharing information, minimizing conflict displays in front of the children and using appropriate methods for resolving conflicts.
- Relationship maintenance: The courts consider the effects that any proposed arrangement might have on relationships between the child and each parent, siblings and other significant people in the child’s life.
Judicial Discretion Can Come Into Play
Even extensive provisions that attempt to fully determine a child’s best interests cannot accurately describe every possible set of family circumstances. This is why the legislation allows the courts to use their own judgment beyond the specifics of the law.
Regardless of whether or not the laws fully apply to a family’s concerns, however, parents with unresolved child custody or parenting time disputes must present compelling evidence to support their claims in court. While no one can absolutely guarantee the outcome of any case, it is important to retain an attorney with extensive experience in developing evidence based on a knowledgeable prediction of judicial thinking.
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