Parenting and custody issues are often some of the most highly disputed issues during any divorce case. Parenting together with a partner during a harmonious marriage or relationship is difficult, and when the relationship falls apart, co-parenting can become even more challenging. During a divorce or custody case, a court will need to make a decision about the division of parenting time. Part of the decision is sometimes referred to as the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Understanding what this term means can help you in your custody dispute.
During a custody case, the court will make a decision about the child’s best interest, referring to the factors listed in Minnesota statute § 518.17. The statute states that when “evaluating the best interests of the child for purposes of determining issues of custody and parenting time,” the could must consider a long list of factors, including the child’s emotional and physical needs, the history of each parent in caring for the child, the willingness of either parent to continue to care for the child, any history of substance abuse for either parent, in addition to many others. Based on these factors, the court will allocate who should have more parental responsibility. Parental responsibility does not mean solely the day to day care of the child, such as making sure the child is appropriately fed and gets to school on time. Parental responsibility also refers to the responsibilities for larger issues, including medical care, educational decisions, or even relocation. Legal custody is the term that refers to the parents’ ability and responsibility to partake in the decision-making process. The Minnesota statute has a preference for joint legal custody. This means that unless one of the parents can present evidence as to why sharing decisions with both parents is not in the child’s best interest, the court will order that the parents share joint legal custody. This allocates the major decision making processes equally between the two parents. If the parents are unable to come to a joint decision on one of the major issues, they will have to return to court. The judge will then either make the decision on the parents’ behalf or provide specifically who has the right to make the decisions in the future.