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The Minnesota statutes involving custody, parenting time, joint physical custody, and grandparent/third party custody reference the “Best Interests of the Child.” This term of art is set forth in Subdivision 1(a) of Minn. Stat §518.17 as:
“The best interests of the child” means all relevant factors to be considered and evaluated by the court, including:
a) the wishes of the party or parties as to custody;
b) the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
c) the child’s primary caretaker;
d) the intimacy of the relationship between each party and the child;
e) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with a party or parties, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
f) the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
g) the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
h) the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
i) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; except that a disability of a proposed custodian or the child shall not be determinative of the custody of the child unless the proposed custodial arrangement is not in the best interests of the child;
j) the capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion or creed, if any;
k) the child’s cultural background; and
l) the effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if related to domestic abuse that has occurred between the parents or the parties.
m) the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child if no related domestic abuse has occurred between the parents or the parties.
The statute continues to state that the court may not use one factor to the exclusion of all others.
Further, the primary caretaker factor may not be used as a presumption in determining the best interests of the child.
The court must make detailed findings on each of the factors and explain how the factors led to its conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child. If the court does not make complete findings, there are means to demand that the court amend its order to demonstrate how the facts support its conclusions.
Whether your concern for the best interests of your children has arisen out of a custody dispute, paternity case, divorce, or other legal matter, Atticus Family Law can help you demonstrate to the court how the best interests of your children will be best served.
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