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Your Guide to Minnesota Child Custody Laws

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If you’re no longer in a relationship with the mother of your child, you might be thinking about your custody options as you move forward. The relationship between a father and his children is extremely important, so it’s worth making sure it continues after the parents break up or get a divorce.

Fortunately, Minnesota fathers have the same rights as mothers do when it comes to child custody. If you want more time with your child and are committed to using the legal system to get it, you should learn the basic child custody laws in this state. Then you should schedule a consultation with a lawyer who can advise you on the type of custody arrangement to seek and what to expect from your case.

What Are the Possible Child Custody Arrangements in Minnesota?

Before you seek custody of your child, you should have an idea of what custody arrangement you want to request. There are two types available, and you can request one or both.

One type is physical custody, which means the child lives with you either full-time or part-time. When you have physical custody, you have the right to oversee and make decisions regarding the child’s daily routine, as you’ll be expected to provide the housing, clothing, food, and any other basic necessities they need.

If you have sole physical custody, the child lives with you full-time and likely gets visitation with the other parent. If you have joint physical custody, you share this custody arrangement with their mother, so the child can live with either of you. However, in most cases, the child has one primary residence where they spend most of their time. This is so their school routine isn’t interrupted by switching homes every few days. Of course, if you and the child’s other parent share physical custody, you can work together to determine an arrangement that works best for your child.

The other type of custody is legal custody. This gives you the right to decide on important issues that affect the child’s upbringing. These issues might include the child’s education, religion, and medical care. So, if you want the chance to offer your input regarding which church your child can attend or what medical treatments they can get, you’ll want to seek legal custody. If you get sole legal custody, you’ll be the only parent who can make these important decisions, while joint legal custody allows both parents to provide their input. The latter is the most common ruling, as it lets both parents remain in the child’s life in some way. Your lawyer will help you determine which arrangement is right for you before building a case that works toward the outcome you want.

How Can You Increase Your Chances of Getting Custody?

If you want as much time with your child as possible, you should be prepared to prove to the judge that more time with you is best for the child. That’s because Minnesota judges are expected to keep the best interests of the child in mind when they make decisions regarding custody.

This means you should be prepared for the judge to consider your history with your child. If you can show that you have spent time providing care for them, and you have no history of drug abuse or domestic violence, this is a good start for your child custody case. It indicates that the child is safe with you and you’re committed to providing the care they need.

Next, the judge will look at which parent seems best equipped to meet the child’s needs, including their religious, cultural, physical, and emotional needs. For instance, if your child regularly goes to church, you must show that you’re willing to take them to church so they don’t have to stop their religious practices when you have custody. Also, if the child has  special educational or medical needs, you should make it clear that they will continue to have access to any facilities that provide the services they need.

Minnesota judges also look at how one parent gaining custody would change the child’s life. If it means they would have to leave their current home, the judge will consider if that would negatively affect the child’s well-being and their bond with siblings and other family members. If you can show that you’d help them maintain these relationships and get them involved in the same activities they enjoyed under the original custody arrangement, you might have a better chance of getting custody.

You must also show that you’re willing to help maintain the child’s relationship with their mother, as long as it’s safe to do so. This is especially the case if you’re seeking joint physical custody and will be co-parenting, as the judge wants to see that you can maintain the peace and avoid arguing in front of the child. Even if you’re seeking sole custody, you might have to arrange for the child’s mother to have visitation on a regular basis, which means you must show that you can get along with her and avoid any attempts at parental alienation.

In some cases, your child’s preference regarding custody arrangements will affect the decision. However, this is only true when the judge believes  the child is mature enough to decide which parent they feel safest with and wish to spend more time with. If they’re not, or if the judge suspects parental alienation is behind the child’s preference, they will give the other factors in the case more weight before making a decision.

Your Minnesota child custody lawyer can give you more information about the details the judge will likely examine in your case. This will allow you to work together to find evidence that shows it’s in the best interests of the child for you to have custody. Your lawyer will also ensure you know all the possible outcomes of your case. This way, you’ll be prepared if you don’t get the custody arrangement you seek or if you have other legal options worth considering in the future. In short, you deserve to have support from a legal professional who will work hard to ensure you can continue to see your child after you divorce or break up with the mother. This is why it’s important for you to hire an experienced Minnesota child custody attorney before you take legal action in family court.

What’s the First Step Toward Pursuing Custody?

As a father, it’s important to know that there is one detail you might have to address that mothers do not. That detail is the issue of paternity. More specifically, in order to pursue custody of your child, you must be a legal parent in the eyes of the law. While you consider yourself a father, it’s possible that Minnesota law doesn’t. Though you might be dismayed by this fact, don’t lose hope when it comes to your case. Instead, you should focus on finding out if you have to establish paternity, and if so, how to do it.

First, if you’re married to the mother of your child, you do not have to prove paternity before requesting custody. The family courts in this state consider you the legal father as long as you were married to the mother when the baby was born. While this doesn’t give you instant custody and visitation orders, it does give you the right to request them so you can continue to be in your child’s life.

If you did not marry your child’s mother, you may still be considered the legal father, but only if you filled out the Recognition of Parentage form. This is a legal document that both parents typically sign on the day their baby is born, allowing the father’s name to be added to the birth certificate and eventually seek visitation or custody if necessary. If you signed this document, you can proceed with your case. If you didn’t sign it, but the child’s mother maintains that you’re the father, you can both sign it now so that the court considers you the legal father.

If you didn’t sign this form, and the child’s mother claims that you’re not the father, you’ll need to take legal action before you can get custody or visitation with the child. You can start by hiring a lawyer to petition the court on your behalf. If the judge sees that you’re not the legal father and would like to pursue custody, they will likely request genetic testing.

This will involve a lab testing samples of saliva from you and the child to determine if you’re the father. However, only a legal parent can allow a child to undergo a DNA test, which means the mother must agree to it. If she doesn’t, the judge can order her to allow her child to be tested. If she still refuses, she can end up in legal trouble. You have a right to find out if you’re the biological father so you can request custody and visitation with the child. If the mother is making this difficult for you, it’s time to hire a lawyer who can use their legal knowledge and experience to get the answers you need.

Will You Have To Go To Court for Your Case?

Taking legal action can be intimidating, especially if you have minimal experience dealing with the court system. When you’re a hardworking, dedicated father, your priorities typically include working to provide for your family, spending time with your loved ones, and setting a good example for your children. You don’t have time for court appearances, complicated legal jargon, and seemingly endless paperwork.

This is why most parents hire legal professionals to help them with their child custody case. However, this might still require you to go to court and deal with the complexities of family law cases. The good news is that not everyone ends up in court for their case. In fact, most judges and lawyers alike prefer that you and the child’s mother come to an agreement outside of court whenever possible. This applies to your parenting plan, child support estimates, and other agreements. If you can work together to come up with a plan that works for both of you and keeps your child’s best interests in mind, a judge is likely to approve of it without requiring time in the courtroom as long as it’s realistic and fair for all parties.

So, if you’d rather avoid court if possible, let your lawyer know so they can assist with mediation between you and your child’s other parent. Your lawyer will assist you in determining the child custody, visitation, or child support arrangements you’d like to request. They can guide you when it comes to completing legal documents using language conducive to coming to a compromise with the mother of your child. After all, experienced attorneys have seen it all, including cases that were calmly settled outside of court and those that dragged on for several months or years in the court system.

If you want to avoid the latter, come to The Legal Dad for support. Our founding lawyer works hard to help maintain a peaceful, kind attitude during custody cases. We realize this is difficult when addressing emotional topics like time with your child, especially when you can’t get along with the child’s other parent. But we’ve found that it’s worth it to remain compassionate and dedicated to setting a good example for the children. If you’re eager to learn what your parental rights are, the custody arrangement that’s realistic for your case, and what steps to take to get started, call 612-712-3405 for a free initial consultation with a caring child custody lawyer.

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