Explaining Child Custody Arrangements In A Minnesota Divorce

August 12, 2013

in Dakota County Divorce, Minnesota Divorce

Minnesota adoption lawTackling issues surrounding child custody and visitation are some of the most difficult decisions any couple must face in a Minnesota divorce.

Dividing marital assets can seem relatively simple when compared with the emotionally exhausting process of dividing up your time with your children. To help make the process more understandable, this article will discuss some of the possible options Minnesota couples face when tackling sensitive child custody cases. Let’s begin by explaining the two types of custody at issue: legal and physical.

Legal Custody in Minnesota

When people say they have “legal custody” over their kids this refers to the power to make important decisions affecting the lives of your children. Legal custody typically boils down to who has the right to make decisions about how to raise the child. When deciding issues of legal custody, the parties must allocate decision-making responsibilities for a range of issues, including education, extracurriculars, healthcare and religion.

Physical Custody in Minnesota

Physical custody simply refers to one parent’s right to have actual physical possession of the children at certain times. In Minnesota, having physical custody (whether joint or sole) means that the parent has the right to make decisions about the routine day-to-day activities of the child including where the child lives. Depending on your particular custody arrangement, the schedule can vary widely. Physical custody schedules could include an alternate weekend schedule, alternate weeks, holidays and spring break only, summertime only, alternating weeks or whatever other option works best for you and your children.

Now that we’ve tackled the two types of custody that are at issue in Minnesota child custody cases, let’s explore some of the common terms used to describe various child custody arrangements.

Sole Custody in Minnesota

Sole custody, as the name implies, describes a custody arrangement where only one party has either all the decision-making power (meaning sole legal custody) or all of the physical control of the child (sole physical custody), or both. Courts generally prefer joint custody arrangements, but will not hesitate to award sole custody to one parent if the other is deemed unfit.

Parents should keep in mind that even if one party receives sole physical custody of a child the other parent is very likely to have visitation rights. Only in incredibly rare cases do Minnesota family court judges completely cut off contact between a parent and child.

Joint Custody in Minnesota

Joint custody refers to situations where the parents share the decision-making responsibilities for the children (joint legal custody) or split the physical control of the kids (joint physical custody) or both. In joint custody situations, Minnesota family court judges will usually require each parent to keep the other fully informed with regard to all important information about the children. In some joint custody situations the parents can agree to a joint legal custody framework where the parent who has the child physically will make all legal decision during that time.

Primary Physical Custody in Minnesota

People are often confused about the term “primary physical custody,” mistakenly believing it is the same as sole physical custody when the two are totally different terms. Primary physical custody simply refers to which parent’s home will be listed as the primary address of the child for educational, tax and mailing purposes. It is usually granted to the parent with whom the child resides for the greater amount of time.

Split Custody in Minnesota

This is an arrangement where the children are split up between the two parents, meaning that some of the children reside with one parent while the other kids live with the other parent. While this is not very common, it does happen from time to time. Courts are usually reluctant to split up the kids except in very unusual circumstances.

An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues and helping negotiate a child custody arrangement. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at 612-424-0398.


Source: AmericanBar.org, “Deciding Factors in Awarding Child Custody

See Our Related Blog Posts:

What’s Equitable Division And How Does It Work In A Minnesota Divorce Case?

Spousal Maintenance Awards in Minnesota


Related posts:


Dakota County MN Lawyer...

Joseph Flanders of Flanders Law Firm LLC is a family law and estate planning lawyer. For further information, check out his website or you can contact him by sending an email

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: