Minnesota Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Minnesota and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Minnesota courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Using the Minnesota Statutes as a reference when creating your parenting plan will help you to get through the custody process a lot easier, as a parenting plan that is written in compliance with the law is more likely to be accepted by the court.
Minnesota's family law statutes can be found in Chapter 518 of the Minnesota Statutes, titled Domestic Relations.
The Statutes clearly define the laws pertaining to child custody and visitation, the laws pertaining to court proceedings and the requirements of the court, and outlines the basic elements of a parenting plan in detail.
The State of Minnesota requires each parent involved in a contested child custody proceeding to attend a parent education program (MS 2010 518.157).
The parent education program will teach you about the impact family dissolution has on children, methods for better parenting during this stressful time, methods for preventing future parenting time conflicts, dispute resolution options, and many other tools the parents may utilize during and after the family restructure process.
The parent education program is at least eight hours long, and there are fees involved with attending the program.
While many parents may welcome and appreciate the opportunity to attend the parent education program, there are parents who may feel they do not need to attend it.
In contested child custody matters, it is not an optional program. Attendance is court ordered and sanctions may be imposed upon individuals refusing to attend (MS 2010 518.157 s. 4).
The best way to avoid having to attend the child education program is to cooperate with the other parent and present a parenting plan to the court that is mutually agreeable and written your child's best interests.
In the State of Minnesota, you and the other parent may jointly submit a parenting plan to the court and as long as the court finds the parenting plan to be proper and beneficial to the child, the court will accept the agreement. It will then be recorded as a legal document of the court.
This will ensure that you do not have to pay for and attend the parenting classes described (above) and by submitting a parenting plan the court will accept, the need for a court drafted order for child custody and visitation is eliminated (MS 2010 518.1705 s. 3a).
While the court is experienced, qualified, and able to make decisions regarding child custody matters, it is the parents who have intimate knowledge of their family dynamic and the needs of their child. This is why the court welcomes mutually agreed upon parenting plans.
The majority of Minnesota parents are quite capable of discerning their child's best interests. It is the ability to set aside animosities in order to create a parenting plan with the other parent that some parents find challenging.
If you cannot or will not cooperate with each other and submit a parenting plan jointly, the court may create one for you (MS 2010 518.1705 s. 3b).
If you cannot submit a parenting plan together, the court may require you to submit individual parenting plans to the court. The court will take these plans into consideration prior to making an order, but will ultimately rule as it sees fit.
When you create a parenting plan / custody agreement together, you may substitute or use other terminology in place of the terms the court uses for "physical custody" and "legal custody", as well as "sole custody" and "joint custody", as long as the terms the parents do use are defined in the parenting plan (MS 2010 518.1705 s. 3c).
Many parents feel the technical words are too strong for their agreement and would like to use words that make their agreement seem friendlier. For instance, some people prefer the term "parenting time" over "visitation". As long as you define what your terms mean in your plan, you can use whatever verbiage you would like.
There are a few basic elements the court requires to be included in the parenting plan (MS 2010 518.1705 s. 2):
- A parenting time schedule that defines when the child will spend time and/or reside with each parent. A parenting time schedule should include a regular residential schedule, a holiday schedule, and a schedule or provisions for vacation times.
- A statement designating decision-making authority and parental responsibilities, pertaining to the events and needs of major importance in the child's life, to either or both parents. This includes medical needs, educational needs, religious upbringing, and any other important matters. Day to day decisions regarding the child's care are typically decided upon by the parent that is exercising parenting time with the child.
- A method for dispute resolution to help resolve any future disagreements about the parenting plan or other issues involving the child.
In addition to the required components of your custody agreement, you are also free to include any other provisions regarding the care and custody of the child they find to be relevant and necessary, such as:
- Provisions regarding the transportation of the child between exchanges and any costs incurred.
- Provisions allowing telephone and electronic communication between the child and each parent.
- Provisions pertaining to the child's belongings.
- Provisions for amending the parenting plan as the needs of the child evolve.
- A first right of refusal clause that offers a parent the opportunity for additional time with the child in the event the other parent requires childcare.
By including as many details as possible in the parenting plan, parents can predict and prevent many future disputes.
Keeping the needs of the child as the main priority when writing your parenting plan will ensure it is fair and beneficial to your child. By using the law as a guide, you can create a comprehensive document that will serve the needs of your child until he or she reaches adulthood.
The top twenty cities in Minnesota (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth, Bloomington, Plymouth, Brooklyn Park, St. Cloud, Eagan, Coon Rapids, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, Burnsville, Woodbury, Blaine, Lakeville, Minnetonka, Apple Valley, Edina, St. Louis Park.