Janet L. Goehle, Attorney at Law
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How does a Minnesota court define the best interest of a child?

Many Minnesota residents these days have gone through a divorce. For some citizens it might not have been very upsetting, while for others the process may have been devastating, both emotionally and psychologically. But a lot of divorced individuals would agree that the most difficult aspect of the process was determining child custody. Minnesota courts, like most others in the nation, uses the term "best interests of the child" in order to determine which parent becomes the custodial parent and which one becomes the noncustodial parent. But what aspects of the individuals involved does the court examine in order to determine the child's best interests?

For a Minnesota court, determining the best interests of a child involves a stringent set of statutes that must be taken into account before a judgment can be rendered. These statues, specifically section 518.17 Custody And Support, consist of 13 specific areas. The first, and perhaps most important of these factors is the preference of the individuals involved in the divorce. That means that both parents have the opportunity to express their feelings about what parent the child should stay with. If the child is older and the court believes that he or she can logically state their preference, then the court may give consideration to the child's opinion.

Other factors that the court will take into consideration include the type of relationship the child has with each parent, which parent has been functioning as the primary caregiver, the mental and physical health of everyone involved in the divorce and how long a child has lived in a normal, stable relationship. In addition, the court will consider how well adjusted the child is to their home, neighborhood and school and the cultural background of the child. Another very important factor is the capacity and the ability of each parent to love and guide the child and to continue to educate and raise the child according to the child's cultural and religious preference.

There are additional factors that a Minnesota court will use to help determine what are the best interests of the child. For any parent who may be going through a divorce, reviewing these statutes can bring insight and understanding to the complicated child custody process.

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