Currently, the 2017-2018 Legislature (90th) is looking at several different bills that have the potential for changing custody laws in Minnesota dramatically. Below is a list of the bills that are up for debate, as well as a brief description of the potential change:
- HF 2545: Changes the presumption that parents are entitled to at least 25% parenting time to a minimum of 50% parenting time (Amends MN Statute Section 518.17)
- HF 2699 / SF 2413: Creates a rebuttable presumption that parents can share joint legal and joint physical custody, with shared parenting time and each parent having at least 45.1% parenting time (proposes new law in Chapter 518 as well as amending several other provisions within Chapter 518)
- HF 2413 / SF 2141: Creates a rebuttable presumption that parents can share joint legal and joint physical custody, with shared parenting time and each parent having at least 40% parenting time (Amends MN Statute Section 518.175 & 518.17)
The proponents of these bills provide some great points, including the following:
- A joint physical custody presumption would encourage children’s ongoing relationships with both parents, particularly fathers.
- It would decrease perceived court system bias against fathers.
- It would limit court discretion.
- It might enhance predictability.
- It might decrease perceived variability of outcomes from different jurisdictions.
- A joint physical custody presumption would change the “starting point” for negotiations between parents because the burden of proof would shift to a parent seeking sole physical custody.
- It might decrease litigation.
- It could might decrease parental conflict by equalizing power between parents.
- Joint physical custody presumption might increase efficiency and reduce some costs
However, there are still many negative components of creating these presumptions, including the following:
- A joint physical custody presumption would limit the ability of the court to consider the needs of individual children.
- It could be detrimental for children continuously exposed to high levels of parental conflict.
- Joint physical custody might heighten conflict between parents who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to effectively co-parent.
- It would be dangerous for children and victims of domestic violence.
- A joint physical custody presumption could create financial and procedural challenges for low income and unrepresented parents who would be required to carry the burden of proof if they, for any reason, object to joint physical custody.
- It would be impractical for some families such as those where parents live in geographically distant locations, children are very young, and/or parents are not married and have never had an ongoing relationship with each other.
- A joint physical custody presumption might increase litigation.
These are definitely bills to keep an eye on. If you have any questions concerning custody, parenting time, or your individual rights as the law stands today, contact one of our experienced attorneys for a free consultation.
Michael P. Boulette, Messerli & Kramer, P.A. and Victoria M.B. Taylor, Crossroads Legal Services, P.A., Legislative Co-Chairs Minnesota State Bar Association Family Law Section