Updated Minnesota child custody laws: What you should know

New laws that went into effect in late 2015 have changed a number of items associated with Minnesota’s child custody laws.

It took several years of work to put the changes into effect that now shape Minnesota's child custody laws. Since August 2015, these new regulations - spread out among a number of laws - have offered some significant improvements on how these matters used to be handled.

People across the state who are presented with custody issues should have a good idea of what the laws are. Below is a guide to key points.

How do the laws affect children?

One of the most important changes is in regard to the state's best interest factors, which provide items to consider when determining primary custody. Previously, there were 13 factors; the new law provides 12 that the Minnesota State Bar Association says are child-centered and include the following:

  • The child's reasonable preference
  • Any special needs as well as physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual needs
  • Whether there has been domestic abuse
  • Each parent's own health issues, including mental health
  • How each parent may meet the needs of the child in the future

The factors also include how a child's relationships and environment would be affected. In short, this guideline emphasizes the best interest of the child in a more comprehensive way than previous laws did.

Do the laws address parenting time?

The new laws recognize that a child benefits from having a healthy relationship with both parents. As such, when determining custody, one of the items the courts considers is the benefit of shared parenting as well as the detriment of limiting time with one parent.

Additionally, the laws revise the legal remedies parents may seek if they are denied parenting time. For example, if one parent is denied a substantial amount of court-ordered time, the court may give "compensatory" parenting time. The parent who interfered with the time that should have been allotted to the other parent could face civil penalties.

If there are changes to custody laws, are there also changes to child support?

Yes. For example, a non-custodial parent no longer needs to be current on child support payments in order to claim a dependency exemption. Additionally, there is no longer a presumption that the primary custodian is exempt from paying child support.

There are also changes to the way potential income is computed in regard to how much child support may have to be paid. Further, there are adjustments in the way that parenting time offsets child support.

Because these laws are fairly recent, many people may be unaware of how they work or how they would affect their case. Anyone with a question about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in Minnesota.