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How are parenting time modifications determined?

A serious and often contentious child custody issue during or after a divorce is determining parenting time and later making modifications. Minnesota law and court cases address this issue, but the standards are not entirely objective.

Substantial changes to parenting time that amount to a restriction are not permitted, unless the existing schedule is likely to endanger the child's health or development. Less substantial revisions to this schedule are governed by the best interests of the child standard.

A hearing must be held for modifications unless the adjustment or modification is not substantial. Courts have broad discretion with determining the child's best interest. Minnesota law establishes that each parent is entitled to 25 percent of parenting time. However, this presumption may be overcome. The law is intended to preserve a parent's relationship with children.

Parenting time may be determined by calculating the number of the child's overnight visits with a parent. Another method may be used if the parent has significant periods on separate days when the parent has physical custody but does not stay overnight. Courts may consider the child's age when ruling on whether a child spends significant time with a parent.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently affirmed modifications to parenting time where the child was frequently late to school, spent insufficient time on his homework, worked on his assignments near midnight while he was under his mother's care and completed most of his homework while under his father's care. The mother's time was originally ordered for two week nights and every other weekend. The court reduced the mother's time to four and a half hours after school on one day per week and to every other full weekend.

The court affirmed, in its unpublished opinion, the modification under the best interests of the child standard without the need for an evidentiary hearing, instead of the endangerment standard, because the change did not constitute a restriction of the mother's time. The modification was justified under the circumstances of this case to support the child's educational needs.

Source: Minnesota Court of Appeals, "Constantini v. Constantini, No. A15-0058 (Minn. Ct. of Appeals, Jan. 25, 2016)(Unpublished)," Accessed Feb. 22, 2016

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