Tomorrow is the first day of August, and it is also the day Minnesota’s new “best interests of the child” factors go into effect. If you are at all familiar with child custody laws, then you know that all child custody decisions are made based on what is in the best interests of the child.
In order to determine what is in the child’s best interests, state lawmakers have established 13 factors that are found in Minn. Stat. Section 518.17, subd. 1. Many of the factors have been in place since the late 1970s. Of course, the times have changed greatly since then, so it was decided that the 13 factors needed a facelift.
Ultimately, instead of 13 factors there will now be 12, and they will focus even more heavily on the child’s needs instead of the parents’ wishes.
It is also agreed by many that the new factors help to promote co-parenting, and instead of determining which parent is “best fit” to care for the child, they focus more on what living arrangement will best meet the child’s needs.
Interestingly, the first factor under the old law was “the wishes of the child’s parents;” however, this factor was removed entirely from the new law. Now, the first two factors address the “child’s needs.” The third factor addresses the preference of the child, if the child is old enough.
In addition to the 12 revamped best interest factors, nine principles were also added to Minn. Stat. Section 518.17 that aim to help apply the new best interest factors. The principles also uphold the current presumption of joint legal custody in most cases, and they give greater detail on doing so.
While the overhaul of the state’s best interest factors is certainly a big deal, it’s important to point out that the new factors likely won’t result in major changes to custody decisions.
In order to determine how the new factors could affect your specific case, speak with an experienced family law attorney.