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Minnesota child custody legislation apparently shelved

Just one year ago, the Minnesota legislature was engaged in spirited debates about the amount of parenting time that each divorcing spouse should get. Current laws set a baseline of twenty-five percent for each parent. The remaining fifty percent is set by the agreement of the parties or by court order. So, legislators sought to eliminate this battleground by changing the baseline to a fifty-fifty split.

Eventually, the 2012 legislature approved a child custody bill that raised the baseline amount of parenting time for each parent to 35%. However, Governor Dayton vetoed the bill out of concerns that it might harm children who were better off spending the majority of their time with one parent or in one home. Given the support for the vetoed bill just one year ago, many presumed that similar legislation would be offered again during this year's legislative session. Nonetheless, reports out of the capital suggest that no such legislation will be introduced this year.

Accordingly, divorcing parents, it seems, must arrange parenting plans according to the status quo. When a spouse files for divorce, he or she sets in motion a process that can have an infinite number of conclusions. Since 50% of a child's time is up in the air, there is simply no guarantee as to how a parenting plan might turn out. Moreover, though parenting time is generally split, the law does not preclude sole custody, especially in cases where the child may be put at risk of abuse or neglect by one parent.

This uncertainty can be unnerving to loving parents who are seeking what is best for their kids. Given the flexibility in possible resolutions, divorcees are encouraged to consider their priorities and work toward turning those priorities into a reality. It is unlikely that the legislature will ever mandate terms of a divorce. Each case is different and deserves individualized attention. As a result, divorcing parents need to be prepared for this process to ensure that their custody rights are not jeopardized.

Source: Star Tribune, "From the 'whatever happened?' department: child custody legislation," Jeremy Olson, April 18, 2013

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