Not long ago, we wrote an article offering insight into changes that affect how child custody decisions are made under Minnesota law. That piece described how the specific factors family law court judges use to question or bless custody plans have been modified.
Specifically, the legislature refined the list of issues judges should explore from 17 to 12. Broadly, the changes reflect a shift somewhat away from what the parents might prefer and more toward what the court deems to be in the best interests of the children involved.
The big-picture objective is to ensure that any parenting plan that is assembled serves to provide the children with what they need to be sure their developmental needs are met.
The presumption of the law going into the process is that both parents are capable of sustaining positive parent-child relationships and that maximizing the time each parent has with the child is best for the child. The law even directs judges to be sensitive to the fact that there is no one right way to parent and that individuals bring their own styles to the task based on their own personal and cultural experiences.
Still, it is a good idea to take a more granular look at the various child custody models that exist, with the help of a skilled attorney, to determine which might best fit the circumstances of your situation. For example, under current standards joint legal custody might be considered the default. But if you feel the other parent is unfit for some reason, you might wish to seek sole custody.
If parents are unable to come to terms on a proposed plan on their own, they will need to be prepared to have the court step in. At this point, parental preferences might carry much less weight and the outcome is likely to be less predictable.
One last thing to keep in mind is that a child custody plan, while tailored to current conditions, needs to be flexible to adapt to the children's needs as they change. Here again, an experienced attorney's help can be invaluable.