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How joint-custody arrangements work in Minnesota

As in every other state, when a couple in Minnesota with minor children divorces, the final court order usually specifies which parent will gain custody of the children. The order will also describe the noncustodial parent's visitation rights. Very often parents will actually decide on these arrangements on their own before the final divorce order and ask the court to validate their plans. In a joint custody arrangement, both parents have equal rights to physical custody and can decide on how to affect custody and visitation on a weekly or monthly basis.

Joint custody is less frequently awarded because it can exaggerate personal difficulties between the parents and be too disruptive of a child's life. There may also be other practical problems such as scheduling visits and maintaining two households for the child. Still, joint custody means both parents can participate in making all decisions about the child's education, lifestyle, healthcare and other aspects of the child's upbringing. As long as the best interests of the child are met, they can split the time in whatever way best suits them.

Joint legal custody is generally preferred to joint physical custody. In this arrangement, parents share all lifestyle decisions for the child, but the child stays with just one parent. For example, a divorcing couple might decide to share joint legal custody of their child but decide that the mother will be the child's physical custodian.

Because all matters related to child custody are complicated and must satisfy a family law court's basic guideline of meeting a child's best interests, it is usually wise to consult an experienced legal professional before entering into any child-custody arrangement. An attorney will know how to satisfactorily present a parent's case in support of the parent's request for a specific type of custody or visitation arrangement.

Source: FindLaw, "Joint Custody," Accessed on July 21, 2015

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