How Does Minnesota Define a Child’s Best Interests?
In most states, the primary factor in a divorce in which the spouses had children isn’t the wishes or preferences of the divorcing spouses — it’s whatever is in the best interests of the children. A judge will evaluate every aspect of the children’s lives to determine what course of action would be most beneficial to the kids in the long term. It is then expected that the parents will adhere to the plan and put their children’s best interests first.
Minnesota judges will consider numerous factors in making decisions about custody and visitation, including but not limited to:
- The children’s health and safety: First and foremost, the safety of the children has the power to override most other factors. Any situation involving domestic violence or abuse will have a major effect on custody and visitation.
- The development and emotional needs of the children: The focus here is on preserving stability and continuity. The judge will consider the children’s existing relationships with each parent, and in some cases will evaluate the children’s ability to make a choice about which parent they’d prefer to reside with. Options that avoid uprooting the children from their established schools, friendships, extracurricular activities and overall rhythm of life are preferred whenever possible.
- The ability of the parents to work together: In a divorce, it stands to reason that the relationship between the parents could be strained. But the importance of putting their own disagreements and problems aside for the children’s benefit is crucial to making any future arrangements work. The judge will usually evaluate the parents’ ability to work together in the children’s best interests before making decisions about custody and visitation.
- Parental involvement in raising the children: Factors like the parents’ involvement in the children’s educational, religious and cultural upbringing also contribute to the judge’s decision, as these things help stabilize children’s lives during and after a divorce.
If you have questions about Minnesota’s child custody process or concerns about what a judge may see as your children’s best interests, meet with the Twin Cities divorce attorneys at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart.