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Custody and Best Interests of the Child


Home l Referral by the Court l Mediation l Evaluation l Custody and Best Interest of Children l Developmental Stages of Children l Parenting TimeParents Helping Their ChildrenParenting Time Evaluation l Domestic Abuse l Community Resources l Book ResourcesPrivacy Rights l Fee Schedule


Legal and Physical Custody

There are two kinds of custody:

1) Legal Custody is the right to make decision about a children’s education, health and welfare.

  • Joint legal custody permits both parents to be involved in these decisions.
  • Sole legal custody gives one parent authority to make these decisions.

2) Physical Custody

  • Physical custody is the routine daily care and control and residence of the child.
  • Joint physical custody means that the routine daily care and control and residence of the child is shared between the parties.
  • Sole physical custody means that the children lives primarily with one parent and the other parent, either by agreement between the parents, or by order of the court, has scheduled parenting time.

Best Interests of the Child

Minnesota State Statutes define relevant factors to be considered and evaluated by the Court when designating custody of minor children. In addition, there are other factors that are considered when joint custody is requested or modification of custody orders are sought.

Please read Custody and Support of Children on Judgment MN Statute.

Mediation Agreement

If the parents agree about custody and the parenting time schedule, the mediator will write up the agreement by the parties and send a copy to each parent, and their attorney, if represented. Each parent will then have 10 business days to review the agreement. If there are any concerns about the agreement during this time, one or both of the parents must contact the mediator who will try to help resolve the issue(s). If the agreement is not acceptable after all, the parents will typically be referred to another Family Court Officer for a custody evaluation.

If the agreement is acceptable, the mediator will forward it to the court. If either party has an attorney, the attorney is responsible for providing the court with a stipulation – a formal agreement signed by all parties submitted to the Court to become an Order. If neither parent has an attorney, the parents will return to court and the judicial officer will make the agreement an order.

If the parents do not reach agreement, typically the case is referred for evaluation.

Children and Separation

Children experience anxiety, distress and insecurity during separation. Expect some changes in your child – emotional and behavioral – stay focused on helping your children adjust to the separation.

The first year following separation is a crucial time for children. Parents are likely to be more distracted, and routines may be disrupted.

Everyone, including the children are struggling to find a new balance.

See: Helping Your Children Through Separation and Divorce

Important Reminders

  • Children of all ages who witness family violence of any kind are emotionally traumatized
  • Children need to be emotionally and physically safe from parental conflict
  • Children likely benefit from a relationship with both parents
  • Parents and children experience a great sense of loss in separation and/or divorce
  • Parents and children usually need emotional support and guidance through the process of separation and/or divorce
  • A custody and parenting time plan needs take into consideration the age, developmental and emotional stage of each child.
  • Children benefit from consistency and stability provided by both parents.
  • Children like to know in advance when they will be spending time with each parent.
  • Respect your children’s right to have an ongoing relationship with the other parent- you are separating  from the other parent - the children are not!