Navigating Parenting Time in Minnesota Family Law Matters

In family law matters in Minnesota, one of the most critical and emotionally charged aspects is establishing parenting time, often referred to as visitation. This process determines how parents share the responsibilities of raising their children after a divorce or after establishing paternity/custody. It is crucial to understand the guidelines and considerations involved in establishing parenting time to ensure the best interests of the children are upheld.

Legal Framework for Parenting Time in Minnesota:

Minnesota law places a strong emphasis on the best interests of the child when establishing parenting time arrangements. The primary statute governing parenting time in the state is Minn. Stat. § 518.17. Overall, the court considers that it is in the best interests of the child to promote the child’s healthy growth and development through safe, stable, nurturing relationships between a child and both parents.

Further, unless substantial reasons show otherwise, the court considers that both parents have the capacity to have nurturing relationships with their children. The court also recognizes that there are many ways that parents can respond to a child’s needs and provide the child love and guidance, and these may differ between parents and among cultures. The court will also closely consider the following factors in determining which parenting time schedule is in the children’s best interest:

  1. A child’s physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs, and the effect of the proposed arrangements on the child’s needs and development.
  2. Any special medical, mental health, developmental disability, or educational needs that the child may have that may require special parenting arrangements or access to recommended services.
  3. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient ability, age, and maturity to express an independent, reliable preference.
  4. Whether domestic abuse has occurred in the parents’ or either parent’s household or relationship; the nature and context of the domestic abuse; and the implications of the domestic abuse for parenting and for the child’s safety, well-being, and developmental needs.
  5. Any physical, mental, or chemical health issue of a parent that affects the child’s safety or developmental needs.
  6. The history and nature of each parent’s participation in providing care for the child.
  7. The willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child’s ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time.
  8. The effect on the child’s well-being and development of changes to home, school, and community.
  9. The effect of the proposed arrangements on the ongoing relationships between the child and each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life.
  10. The benefit to the child in maximizing parenting time with both parents and the detriment to the child in limiting parenting time with either parent.
  11. Except in cases in which domestic abuse has occurred, the disposition of each parent to support the child’s relationship with the other parent and to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent.
  12. The willingness and ability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of their child; to maximize sharing information and minimize exposure of the child to parental conflict; and to utilize methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child.

Ways to Establishing Parenting Time:

  1. Negotiation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Ideally, parents should attempt to negotiate a parenting time schedule that works for both parties and, more importantly, is in the best interests of their child. ADR offers many valuable tool in resolving disputes and crafting a mutually agreeable parenting time arrangement, which can then be submitted to the court.
  2. Court Involvement: If parents cannot agree on parenting time, they may need to turn to the court for resolution. The court will consider the factors mentioned above and may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to represent the child’s interests in the proceedings.
  3. Parenting Plans: In many cases, the court may require parents to submit a parenting plan detailing their proposed parenting time schedules (including holidays, vacations, and special occasions), plans for transportation, and plans for communication between parents and between parents and the children. These plans help the court understand each parent’s intentions and provide a basis for decision-making.
  4. Temporary Orders: While the court process is ongoing, temporary parenting time orders may be issued to ensure that the child’s needs are met until a final decision is made.

Preparing Your Case to Establish Parenting Time

Once you understand the factors the court is considering and the methods to establish parenting time, it is important to prepare.

  1. Gather Important Documents. Collect all relevant documents to which you have, including:
    • A copy of your child’s Recognition of Parentage (if you are not married);
    • Your child’s school records;
    • Your child’s medical records;
    • Information and schedules for your child’s activities;
    • Parents’ work schedules;
    • Documents supporting any child care plans;
    • Any evidence of domestic abuse including copies of past Orders for Protection;
    • Evidence demonstrating any current parenting time;
    • Documentation of any physical, mental or chemical health of both parents, and documentation as to how it has been addressed if there is no longer an issue;
    • Any other documents relevant to your child’s well-being.
  1. Develop a Proposed Parenting Time Schedule. Create a proposed parenting time schedule that you believe is in your child’s best interests. Be prepared to present this plan to the court, highlighting how it promotes stability and meets the child’s needs.
  2. Be Open to Mediation. Mediation can be a valuable tool in reaching a parenting time agreement outside of court. Be open to participating in mediation, as it often leads to more amicable and mutually agreeable solutions.
  3. Maintain Open Communication. Maintaining open lines of communication with your co-parent is essential. Demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and co-parent effectively can positively impact the court’s decision.
  4. Keep Records and Documentation. Throughout the process, keep detailed records of all communications with your co-parent, as well as any changes or disruptions to the parenting time schedule. Documentation can be invaluable in demonstrating your commitment to your child’s well-being. However, also be aware that the other parent may be keeping your communications as well. As such, ensure that all communications with the other parent are friendly, brief, and professional. All communications involving parenting time should be between parents only—never involve the minor children in parents’ legal matter.
  5. Consider the Child’s Best Interests. Always prioritize the best interests of your child. When preparing your case, focus on how your proposed parenting time arrangement contributes to their stability, emotional well-being, and overall development.
  6. Consult with Professionals. If necessary, consult with professionals such as child psychologists, therapists, or counselors who can provide expert opinions on the child’s needs and the proposed parenting time arrangement.

Establishing parenting time in family law matters in Minnesota is a complex but essential process. Understanding the legal framework, the factors considered, and the steps involved is crucial to ensure that the outcome serves the best interests of your child. For personalized guidance and legal expertise tailored to your unique situation, consulting with an experienced family law firm, such as Oney + Kim Family Law,  is highly recommended. With the right approach and legal support, you can navigate this challenging process and secure the well-being of your children as you move forward. Call us at 612-279-8655 or contact us via email.