Parenting time is unlikely to change in Minnesota this year

|| April 20, 2013

In Minnesota, child custody consists of two parts: physical custody (where children reside) and legal custody (the authority to make major decisions concerning children such as education, medical care and religious training). The underlying standard in all custody cases (divorces and paternity) is the “best interests of the child.” Child custody can be sole or joint. Joint physical custody is common in Minnesota, but not “preferred”.  In fact, a growing preference in the Minnesota courts is to avoid a “label” for physical custody, so that the parenting arrangement is called neither “sole physical custody” nor “joint physical custody”.  Most joint physical custody arrangements involve a roughly equal split of time between each parent’s home.  However, some joint physical custody cases involve a parenting schedule that is a substantial departure from the 50/50 model.  Those cases reflect the fact that the label does not often match the actual arrangement.

During the 2012 Legislative session, the question over how much time divorcing parents should get with their children was a popular issue.  Lawmakers were trying to increase parenting time from 25% to at least 35%. The measure passed the MN house and MN senate but was vetoed by Governor Dayton.

Current law determines that divorcing parents in contested cases each get 25% of time with their children, and the rest is negotiated or set by the courts. Groups such as advocates of father's rights are pushing lawmakers to change parenting time to 50-50. They argued that a presumption of equal parenting time would help children by eliminating some of the pain and divisiveness of child custody negotiations.

“While presumptive parenting time percentages provide parents with a framework for maintaining a relationship with their child, percentages are not always a “one-size-fits-all” solution.”

Minnesota's child custody bill from last session, vetoed by Governor Dayton, discussed the following:

Equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child unless the court finds that:

a. The safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child would be endangered by equal time-sharing, that visitation would be presumed detrimental consistent with s. 39.0139(3), or that supervised visitation is appropriate, if any is appropriate; 
b. Clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances justify a departure from equal time-sharing and the court makes written findings justifying the departure from equal time-sharing;
c. A parent is incarcerated;
d. The distance between parental residences makes equal time-sharing impracticable;
e. A parent does not request at least 50-percent time-sharing;
f. A permanent injunction has been entered or is warranted against a parent or household member relating to contact between the subject of the injunction and the parent or household member; or
g. Domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28, has occurred.

Although the measure is unlikely to be brought up in this year’s legislative sessions, legislators may consider raising minimum custody down the road. 

Source: Star Tribune, “From the “whatever happened?” department: child custody legislation” Jeremy Olson, April 19, 2013.