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How Minnesota courts evaluate the best interests of children

Every year in Minnesota, courts make thousands of judgments about child support and child custody. In every case, they are required to consider the best interests of the child or children involved. This involves understanding each family's case in a way that allows a judge to determine the best way to keep the divorce from affecting the child in the most negative ways and, hopefully, providing a way for the child to adapt and grow even in the most trying circumstances.

First, a court considers what the parents want. The child's primary caretaker and the intimacy of the child-parent relationship are significant factors for determining a child's actual best interests. This is especially important when children are very young. A court is likely to give more weight to an older child's preference.

Along with a potential custodial parent's mental and physical health, a judge will also consider the desirability and capacity of both parents to provide love, affection and guidance to the children

Interactions with siblings and other persons also can be important considerations. A court wants to know how well the child will adjust to a new home, community or school or whether the child would prefer to remain in the current environment, if that is possible.

Finally, a court will pay special attention to any allegation of domestic abuse or criminal behavior by any family member.

A court will thoroughly analyze each and every factor, weighing them appropriately, and then make determinations about the importance of each factor in order to arrive at the best interests of the child in question.

Anyone dealing with child custody issues would be wise to consult an experienced attorney. Those who specialize in family law are best able to help present relevant arguments before a court and reach a resolution that is in everyone's best interests.

Source: 2014 Minnesota Statutes, "518.17 Custody and support of children on judgment," accessed April 16, 2015

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