Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines in Minnesota



            Parties who are married at the time of an infant’s birth have both legal and physical custody of their child.  However, in Minnesota, should you choose to legally separate or proceed with a divorce, you may file a petition for dissolution of marriage and file a parenting plan establishing custody and visitation.   Custody can become an issue in many ways, including when married parents are filing for divorce or legal separation.

In Minnesota, there are two types of child custody. “Legal custody” refers to the right to make decisions about how to raise the child, including decisions about education, health care, and religious training.  “Physical Custody” refers to the right to make decisions about the routine day-to-day activities of the child and where the child lives.  Depending on several factors, parents may share custody, which is often called “joint” physical and/or legal custody.  “Joint legal custody” means that both parents share the responsibility for making decisions regarding how to raise the child, including the right to participate in major decisions about the child’s education, health care, and religious training.  “Joint physical custody” means that the routine daily care and control and the residence of the child is structured between both of the parents.

Parenting time,” also commonly referred to as “visitation,” refers to the time the non-custodial parent spends with a child, regardless of the labels used in the custody arrangement. Parenting time is often set according to a schedule as a result of a court order.

In order to have your child custody issues decided by a judge in Minnesota, the child must have lived in Minnesota with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six (6) consecutive months (180 days) before starting the court process.  There are exceptions for emergency situations.  Emergency “ex parte” actions involve one party asking the court for a hearing and/or order without giving advance notice of their request to all other parties involved in the case.


By MN law, a mother who is not married at the time of her child’s birth has sole custody of the child until a court issues a custody order, even if a father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate.

If you are an unmarried mother and you have full custody of your child(ren), there may still be occasions when you may need a written custody court order documenting your parental rights – and you able to file a petition for determination of visitation rights or custody.

If you are an unmarried father, in order to request custody or parental visitation time, you must first establish paternity.  This may be done by voluntarily signing the infant’s actual birth certificate or voluntarily executing a paternity affidavit.  If you are seeking to establish or determine parentage of a child, you may file a paternity petition to obtain assistance from the court.  In doing so, the court may require that the child, the mother or an alleged father submit to genetic testing.


In Minnesota, if the parties sign a “Recognition of Parentage” form (usually at the Hospital or at the Child Support Office), then both parties have voluntarily admitted that they are the biological parents.  The biological father has no legal rights or financial obligations to the child, unless he is established to be the “legal” father.



            Minnesota courts highly encourage frequent and continuous contact between the child and both parents so long as it serves the best interests of the child.  A family court determines custody based on the “best interests of the child.”   If the parties have not agreed to a custodial arrangement, or the court determines such arrangement is not in the best interest of the child, the court may include a written finding in its order and decision.


            If you have a previous divorce decree or custody order in Minnesota, and you have a situation where you may need to ask the court to review your present situation, you are required under Minnesota law to file either a custody petition or motion to modify custody.  In order for the court to modify the terms of a pre-existing custody order, there must be a continuing and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or the child’s parental custodian.  The modification requested must be necessary to serve the best interests of the child.  The Court requires that new facts must have developed that since the prior order that establish a “change of circumstances.”  For example, if either parent of a child changes his or her residence  — either a significant distance from the other party — or to another state —  such relocation would be deemed a change of circumstances.



            If you reside outside of the state of Minnesota and possess a child custody determination issued by a court of another state, that order may be registered in Minnesota.  You can do so by providing the Court with certified copies of that order and requesting in writing that the out-of-state order be filed and adopted by the Minnesota court having jurisdiction over the minor child(ren)



            In Minnesota, in any court order for the custody of or visitation with minor children, the order  may include a provision that the sheriff or other law enforcement officer shall enforce the rights of any person authorized to custody or visitation.  If such a provision has not been included in the court order, and the other parent is not obeying or cooperating with your parental rights and visitation schedule,  you can request the Court’s assistance by filing a motion for expedited enforcement of a child custody issue.

Note:  The foregoing information is provided as general family law guidelines in Minnesota and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case.  After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.

By Linda O’Marie Esq.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Child Custody, Child Visitation, Joint Custody, Minnesota
2 comments on “Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines in Minnesota
  1. positivagirl says:

    I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read so many of my posts on UKstillbirth. Thank you 🙂

  2. julespaige says:

    Children are our greatest assets. And yet we also need to remember that, as parents we have rights. Thanks you.

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