Every parent only wants to keep his or her child safe from harm. In the optimal situation, the parents will work together to ensure the child’s well-being and safety. Even in the most acrimonious of divorces, the parties still want to make sure that their children are safe and well cared for. Minnesota statute provides for a presumption of joint legal custody, which means the parents will equally share in making major decisions for the children, such as education or religious upbringing. Physical custody, however, has no such presumption. Joint physical custody does not mean necessarily that the parents equally share in the parenting time. Likewise, sole physical custody does not mean that only one parent has time with the children. Sole physical custody means that the children spend a majority of time with one parent for their day to day schedule. The court will make a decision on the child’s day to day schedule and physical custody of the child based on the factors listed by the Minnesota statute as how to determine what is in a child’s best interest. These factors include a variety of considerations, but all are focused on making sure that a child’s physical and emotional well-being are protected at all times. Accordingly, if one parent is unable or unwilling to help protect a child, then sole custody to one parent may be appropriate. The most common scenario envisioned by most people is that one parent is unfit to provide care for the child, by virtue of a substance abuse problem or past domestic violence. Where a parent can be proven to be dangerous to a child, sole physical custody would be appropriate. A parent requesting this sort of schedule, however, needs to be aware that there will be a high degree of proof required to have the court put in place a supervised visitation situation or similarly restrictive parenting arrangement. It is not always the case, however, that sole physical custody is awarded because one parent is unfit. Another reason why sole physical custody is sometimes awarded is because one parent may live so far away that it is not possible to have joint physical custody. Where, for example, the non-custodial parent relocates across the country, it would obviously not be practical or possible to have a parenting schedule that provided for shared parenting time.
We have experience helping our clients understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to child custody. at (651) 371-9117 for a consultation to talk about your child and how we can help