By: Nancy Murphy
The family law statutes are always evolving to reflect societal changes. Several amendments to the Minnesota joint custody and parenting time statutes recently went into effect on August 1, 2014.
The changes and clarifications include:
- There is no presumption for or against joint physical custody, except in a situation where domestic abuse has occurred.
- The court cannot use one of the joint custody factors to the exclusion of the others. (This requirement already existed in the best interest portion of the custody statute).
- A disagreement between the parents over whether sole or joint legal custody is appropriate does not on its own constitute an inability to cooperate with each other.
The amendments regarding custody seem to be intended to present sole and joint custody as equal options for the court to consider.
The parenting time statute (518.175) was also amended to provide that the court can now reserve whether to establish or expand a parent’s time with their children. In that event, the court would apply a best interest standard.
Another important change addressing the modification of a custody order provides that the court may take into account “a child’s changing developmental needs.” This factor has been added as a new best interest consideration. While the statute does not specifically define what these developmental needs are, a child’s age, gender, educational, and extra-curricular activities and other opportunities come to mind. This flexibility will be a welcome addition to the statute when seeking to expand, or decrease a parent’s time with a child or children.
Additional language was added to provide that when there is a modification of parenting time that increases a parent’s time to between 45.1% to 54.9%, the increase is not to be considered as a restriction of the other parent’s time.
The changes to the parenting time statute will make it easier to obtain more substantial modifications to parenting time schedules.