In our first post this month, we attempted to provide a view of how courts in Minnesota define the best interest of children when making child custody determinations. Understanding that this is a priority for the family courts and that it can be interpreted differently county by county is important for any parent seeking to establish custodial rights. As such, it's something you would want to explore ahead of time with an experienced attorney.
With the "best interest" standard firmly in mind it then becomes possible to start looking at the other elements that contribute to determining child custody matters. That's what we hope to do in this post.
To start with, parents will need to determine what form of custody arrangement might work best for the well-being of the child. Questions to be answered might include whether both parents should be involved in making the decisions that most affect the life of the child.
If collaborating as parents is possible and desirable, then some form of joint legal custody might be appropriate. But if there are questions about one or the other parent's ability to fulfill the child's general welfare needs, then one parent might wish to ask for sole custody.
This leads to the another consideration. Who will craft the plan?
Courts don't necessarily want to interfere with parents determining custody plans. If the parents, working with appropriate counselors, can craft an out-of-court agreement on visitation and parenting, most courts likely will accept that.
But if they are not able to come to terms on their own, perhaps even after going through some form of mediation, the court is likely to step in to decide things -- keeping the best interests of the child as the priority.
Of course, divorce is not the only situation in which child custody issues might arise. Unmarried parents have rights under the law and may seek to protect them. Grandparents or other relatives close to a child might also feel they have a claim to make. In any case, it's always wise to seek an attorney's help.