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St. Paul Family Law Blog

Advocating for parents in child custody: It's about the children

Child custody is among the most important issues parents deal with in divorce, perhaps the most important. For this reason, child custody disputes can often become quite contentious and can serve as a point of major polarization for parties. When this occurs, the natural reaction of parents is to advocate for my rights as a parent, my time with the children, my qualifications as a parent.

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this up to a point, but advocacy for parents needs to be put in proper context. What is the proper context in child custody cases?

Quite simply, it is the children, and not the parents. In child custody cases, the overriding concern of the court system is to ensure that the custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children.

More men being awarded child support

Gone are the days where fathers in Minnesota are automatically court ordered to pay child support for their children. Today, more dads are being awarded child support from women. As more mothers continue to take over the role of primary breadwinner for their families, the child support standards that have long applied to men are now being applied to them.

Child support requests are on the rise from men who earn less than their children’s mothers. According to Time, 40 percent of households are led by women who out-earn men. Celebrities are no exception to this trend. For example, Halle Berry was recently ordered to pay an undisclosed amount of money for tuition expenses and more than $200,000 a year in child support to her daughter’s father.

What are the consequences of unpaid child support?

When families in Minnesota go through the divorce process, the non-custodial parent is often obligated to offer financial assistance in the form of child support. In the event that you are ordered to provide child support, you may be wondering what the penalties are for delinquent payments. To this end, there are a number of serious ramifications that can result, including the possibility of jail time.

The Minnesota House of Representatives lists a number of potential outcomes should you fail to keep current on your payments. For instance, if you repeatedly neglect to remit payments and other methods of enforcement have failed to afford the desired results, any licenses you hold related to hunting and fishing can be suspended. Your driver’s license and vehicle may also be in jeopardy once your unpaid support amount reaches a certain limit (i.e. three times the amount you are required to pay per month). In this case, any vehicles in your possession valued greater than $2,000 will be subject to a lien and a revocation of your license may occur.

A parenting plan that is in the best interests of your child

Child custody has changed since the days of Ozzie and Harriet and Leave it to Beaver. The '50s ideal of a stay-at-home wife with a husband who was the breadwinner are long gone. Sometimes the law, in the form of the legislature and the courts, are slow to adapt to these changes.

In Minnesota, there have been amendments to the family law statutes that have changed some of the elements used to decide child custody. While the state has not adopted a presumption of shared custody, the likelihood of a father obtaining shared custody and in some cases, perhaps even primary custody, is much greater today than ever before.

Bill that could alter MN alimony law passes committee

Alimony is a contentious topic. Whether you have been ordered to pay spousal maintenance or are the recipient, the subject tends to inspire strong opinions. Alimony, as it is still commonly referred, is used to provide assistance to a spouse who earned less, or in some cases, no income during the marriage. It is designed to allow them to retain a reasonable standard of living and for some, to reenter the workforce.

Minnesota calls alimony "spousal maintenance" and the statutes divide the maintenance into three types. They is temporary, short-term and long-term. The type ordered will depend on various factors, such as the current employment and income of each spouse, the education and skill set of the receiving spouse and the length of the marriage.

Is keeping your home a good idea?

One difficult decision for parents of children in a divorce is what to do with their family home. With all that is going on emotionally with the relationships in a divorce, it seems particularly unfair to potentially further destabilize the children by forcing them to move to a new home, but in many cases, it may be necessary.

Most people in Minnesota who buy a home must do so with the aid of a mortgage. During a divorce, a mortgage can pose a challenge as it is a contract between the lender and the husband and wife. When the couple divorces, it has no effect on that contract. From the lenders perspective, you are two independent individuals who guarantee the repayment of the loan, regardless of where you live.

How does the age of a child affect a parenting plan?

Because each child is different, one-size-fits-all template parenting plans can lead to unnecessary problems. Why is this? What does it have to do with the child's age?

A baby or toddler generally needs more frequent visits of a shorter duration to develop a solid bond with each parent. School age children, on the other hand, need stability during the week and often start to have their own busy schedules with friends and extracurricular activities.

Are changes in custody law in children's best interest?

One of the most contentious issues in many state legislatures throughout the nation is the idea that joint or equal physical custody should be mandatory for any children of a couple who are divorcing. In many states, joint, shared custody has been suggested as being the preferred custody choice by the legislature, but typically judges have the discretion to determine custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.

By changing the law to require joint custody unless the judge makes findings that show it would not be in the best interests of the child, it could have a significant effect on how custody arrangements are put in place.

What is a standby custodian in Minnesota?

Most Minnesota residents would agree that parents love their children unconditionally and will always do what's best for them. Sometimes, situations develop in a parent's life where they may not be able to take care of their children. In times like this, Minnesota parents can employ a legal method known as a standby custodian. But, what exactly is a standby custodian and what are its limitations?

Basically, a standby custodian is a competent adult who has been designated to care for another adult's minor children for a certain finite period of time, usually 60 days. Standby custodians are awarded child custody only when the specific criteria outlined in their agreement develops. This can be so if the parents must make an extended trip without their children or if one of the parents is in the hospital and the other parent is unable to care for their children.

Situations when Minnesota grandparents can seek visitation rights

It's unfortunate, but not all Minnesota grandparents are able to visit their grandchildren. Their relationship with the child's parents may have broken down or the family may have moved out of state. However, there are situations when a Minnesota grandparent can file a motion with a family court requesting visitation with their grandchildren. So, here are three situations when this type of motion can be filed. However, Minnesota courts will only grant such a petition if they believe that contact with the child will be in the best interest of the child and will not obstruct the relationship between the child and the parent.

The first situation is if one or both of the child's parents have died. In this kind of situation, a court may believe that visits from the grandparents can be a stabilizing influence on the child's development and may, therefore, grant the petition.

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