Custody cases in Minnesota are complex if the parties do not agree. Legal custody, physical custody and parenting time disputes involve an entangled set of ever-evolving statutes and caselaw. Alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, domestic abuse, special needs, and child development are just a few of the issues that must be addressed.

Where should you start? Key MN custody laws are found in Chapter 518 of the Minnesota statutes.

As you dig in, read the best interest of the child standard located in Minnesota Statute Section 518.17. That “best interest” criteria is composed of 12 distinct elements. Initial decisions surrounding physical custody, legal custody and parenting time are governed by that standard.

That same statute also outlines the provisions the judge must apply in utilizing the best interest of the child standard. For that reason, 518.17 is by far the most important MN custody law – by a long shot.

Still, there are other crucial custody laws to consider. Minnesota Statute Section 518.175 is the second resource you should consult as you get up to speed. That statute addresses some key principles applicable to parenting time arrangements, including the establishment of a schedule, the factors considered by the court if a parent wishes to relocate out of state, or the standards involved with modifying an existing parenting time schedule.

If you are considering a modification of custody, the key statute is found at Minnesota Statute Section 518.18. That statute, coupled with the 1981 Minnesota Supreme Court decision in Nice-Petersen v. Nice-Petersen, provide a broad overview of the standards involved in modifying child custody in Minnesota.

The final important Minnesota custody resource you should review is the Child-Focused Parenting Time Guide that has been published by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Although not a primary legal authority, the Guide will provide you with an understanding of the developmental needs of children as they grow. It’s an important read because judges and custody evaluators rely upon the advice of the authors.

Common sense suggests that someone with a serious illness should not self-treat with information derived from the WebMD or Mayo Clinic websites. The same is true if you are involved in a custody dispute. Look to the foregoing information for an overview, but rely on the skill and experience of a reputable family law attorney to guide you through the issues surrounding your kids.