In recent months, the legislature passed (and the governor signed into a law) a bill that amends Minnesota’s custody standards. In addition to a revised “best interest of the child” standard, judges must now apply the relevant statutory criteria with nine new provisions to guide them:
The court must make detailed findings on each of the [best interest factors] based on the evidence presented and explain how each factor led to its conclusions and to the determination of custody and parenting time. The court may not use one factor to the exclusion of all others, and the court shall consider that the factors may be interrelated.
The court shall consider that it is in the best interests of the child to promote the child’s healthy growth and development through safe, stable, nurturing relationships between a child and both parents.
The court shall consider both parents as having the capacity to develop and sustain nurturing relationships with their children unless there are substantial reasons to believe otherwise. In assessing whether parents are capable of sustaining nurturing relationships with their children, the court shall recognize that there are many ways that parents can respond to a child’s needs with sensitivity and provide the child love and guidance, and these may differ between parents and among cultures.
The court shall not consider conduct of a party that does not affect the party’s relationship with the child.
Disability, alone, of a proposed custodian or the child shall not be determinative of the custody of the child.
False Abuse Claims
The court shall consider evidence of a false allegation of child abuse in determining the best interests of the child.
There is no presumption for or against joint physical custody, except as outlined below.
Division of Time
Joint physical custody does not require an absolutely equal division of time.
The court shall use a rebuttable presumption that upon request of either or both parties, joint legal custody is in the best interests of the child. However, the court shall use a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody or joint physical custody is not in the best interests of the child if domestic abuse, as defined by law, has occurred between the parents. In determining whether the presumption is rebutted, the court shall consider 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. Disagreement alone over whether to grant sole or joint custody does not constitute an inability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of their children.