child custody laws in Minnesota

Many single or separating parents need a family lawyer to establish or modify child support,  child custody or parenting time agreements.

Establishing Custody

If you are not married when you have a child, you have sole physical and legal custody of your child.  You do not immediately need an attorney unless you would like to seek child support.

If you are an unmarried male who becomes a father, in order to have any legal rights to the child, you must file a petition for custody.  Depending on your relationship with the child’s mother, it is often a good idea to retain an attorney to help you with the process.  If you are married but are separating from your spouse, the amount of time each parent gets with the children (“parenting time”), the authority of each parent to make legal decisions about the child’s upbringing, health, education and religious training (“legal custody”), and the amount of money that should be allocated by each parent to support the children (“Child Support“) will be ordered in the dissolution of marriage (“divorce”) decree.

Establishing Child Support

As mentioned above, married parents who are legally separating or divorcing will determine child support allocations through their dissolution or separation proceedings.  Unmarried parents can establish child support through a separate petition to the county, or as part of a paternity or custody petition.  If a parent is receiving public benefits, the county will often initiate child support proceedings without a petition by either parent. How much each parent pays in child support is dependent on an objective calculation.  If the parents agree on the amount income each parent makes, the amount of time each parent spends with the child, and the amount of childcare and health related expenses each parent pays on behalf the child(ren), there is often no need to hire an attorney.  An attorney only needs to be hired if there is a disagreement over those factors.

Modifying Custody and Child Support

Life rarely remains static. Things change and it often become necessary to modify existing child support or child custody agreements.

Child Support Modifications

Child support agreements almost inevitably change at some point. Parents’ incomes fluctuate, the amount of time the child spends with each parent often changes, and children’s childcare and healthcare expenses vary through the years.  It is not uncommon for parents to modify their child support agreements to reflect these changes. There are separated parents in Minnesota who might have informal agreements about who pays for what. Since they have no disputes, they never get the courts involved. But those types of long-term completely amicable coparenting situations are  the exception not the rule.  These parents may want to speak with an attorney to determine what risks may be associated with informal agreements.  Joint or stipulated agreements are often a better approach for parents who wish to avoid being adversarial but want to maintain the full support of the court.  In the long run, they often save on costs.

Most child support agreements are court ordered. In order to modify a court-ordered child support agreement you’ll need to file a motion and provide justification and proof of changes to your situation that necessitate the change in child support. Many parents seeking these changes will benefit from the assistance of a family law attorney in modifying a child support agreement.

Child Custody Modifications

The court is concerned about the welfare and stability of children.  As a result, child custody modification are available under limited circumstance.  Once custody has been established, it can only be changed if it is proven that a modification is in the best interest of the child – this most often occurs when the child’s physical safety or emotional health is at risk.  These petitions must be well supported and compelling.  It is highly recommended that parents in these circumstances obtain the assistance of an attorney.

On the other hand, the court recognizes that families’ lives are complicated and circumstances changes.   When parents divorce or make custody agreements, they try to foresee future dispute and enter into as maybe agreements as possible in hopes of avoiding future litigation.  They agree on how much time is spent with each parent (including which days of the week and which holidays), who will provide transportation, and which parent will support each sport or activity.  Those types of parenting time agreements are ordered and enforced by the courts but may more easily be changed to reflect how families function on a daily basis.

You may want to seek out a family law attorney for assistance if:

  • You believe the environment in which your child is living or will be visiting poses a risk to the child’s physical safety or emotional health
  • Your spouse or ex is denying visitation in breach of an existing parenting time agreement

Or a  parent wants to move to another state or has moved to another Do You Need a Child Custody or Child Support Lawyer?

Speaking with a family law attorney is always the best option whether you need to establish or change custody or child support. A local, experienced family law attorney can help you understand your options and help you through the process.

The referral counselors at Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service can help you schedule a consultation with an experienced child custody or child support lawyer near you. Call us at (612) 752-6699 or fill out our form to get started.