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Best Interests of the Child in Minnesota

Best Interests of the Child in Minnesota

Courts make decisions all the time that affect children. These decisions are often related to things like child custody, child support, any future modifications to custody and support, and termination of parental rights. These decisions are made in light of the best interests of the child.

At Heritage Law Office, our family law lawyer in Minnesota provides guidance to our clients and helps them understand what the best interest of the child means generally, and how it could affect their unique case specifically. Making sure our clients are informed helps them make better decisions, too. So, contact us online or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation.

What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard in Minnesota?

To determine what is in the best interests of the child, a set of factors have been established to guide the courts. These factors are also meant as a way to objectively arrive at these decisions so that they are fairer and more consistent. The standards used by most states are based on and developed from the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, adopted in 1970. Section 402 of this Act provides that

The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interest of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors including:

(1) the wishes of the child's parent or parents as to his custody;

(2) the wishes of the child as to his custodian;

(3) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent or parents, his siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest;

(4) the child's adjustment to his home, school, and community; and

(5) the mental and physical health of all people involved.

The court shall not consider conduct of a proposed custodian that does not affect his relationship to the child.

As mentioned, these factors are the basis. With regard to the second factor, most states will listen to the wishes of the child but may not act on those wishes unless the child is a certain age. Further, many states have added additional factors into that state's specific standard of the best interests of the child.

Other Factors in Addition to the Best Interests of the Child

Courts can also consider other relevant factors. This could include:

  • Race, although it cannot be a decisive factor
  • Religion, although the courts cannot interfere with a parent's right to practice but can weigh how the religion or religious ritual may affect the child
  • Sexual conduct, which refers to the parent's sexual conduct and if it will adversely impact the child
  • Domestic violence, where there is spousal abuse and/or child abuse
  • Disability, where one parent may be disabled, the court may reflect on how that disability may impact the parent's ability to care for the child

Which Best Interests of the Child Standard Applies if Custody Involves Multiple States?

Child custody determinations are decided by state courts. Wherever the case is filed, typically that state's best interests of the child standard applies. In some cases, where a genuine question as to which state can enforce a custody order exists, uniform laws like the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act may control. That, too, is determined by the state.

Keep in mind, not all states have adopted these uniform laws, but most use them as guidance.

Contact a Family Law Lawyer in Minnesota Today

The best interests of the child standard will greatly influence your child's life as well as yours. If you have questions, need advice, or want to file a complaint for divorce, child custody, or child support, contact Heritage Law Office online or call us at 414-253-8500 today.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What Does 'Best Interests of the Child' Mean in Legal Terms?

In legal parlance, the "best interests of the child" is a standard that courts use to determine a wide range of issues related to children, including custody, support, and visitation rights. This standard is guided by various factors such as the child's emotional, educational, and physical well-being, as well as their relationship with each parent. The aim is to ensure that the child grows up in a healthy, stable, and loving environment.

2. What Are the Core Factors That Influence the 'Best Interests of the Child' Standard?

Courts evaluate multiple factors to determine the child's best interests. This includes the child's emotional and physical health, the ability of each parent to provide care, the child's existing relationship with siblings or other family members, and stability in home life. These factors are usually standardized and derived from legislative acts like the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.

3. How Much Weight is Given to the Child's Own Wishes in Custody Cases?

The child's wishes may be considered but are generally not decisive. Courts often take into account the age and maturity of the child while assessing the relevance of their preferences. The key focus remains on the child's overall well-being, and their wishes are one of many factors considered.

4. Can the 'Best Interests of the Child' Standard Differ From State to State?

Yes, while most states base their best interests standard on common legislative acts, each state may have its specific guidelines or additional factors. The state where the case is filed typically dictates which set of standards will apply, making it essential to understand the local laws and norms.

5. How Do Courts Consider Other Factors Like Race, Religion, and Domestic Violence?

Courts may consider additional elements like race, religion, or instances of domestic violence but generally do not allow these factors to be decisive. For example, a parent's religion might be a consideration, but it cannot infringe upon the right to practice unless it adversely impacts the child. Similarly, evidence of domestic violence would be a severe concern and could heavily influence the court's decision.

Contact Us Today

For a comprehensive plan that will meet your needs or the needs of a loved one, contact us today. Located in Downtown Milwaukee, we serve Milwaukee County, surrounding communities, and to clients across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and California.