Minnesota Child Custody Laws

During a separation or divorce, you will want to think about what decisions need to be made which affect your child. It is important that you are prepared for your child custody arrangement and a possible court date. Minnesota child custody laws might differ in some ways from other states, so it is important to learn about what to expect before your child custody hearing.

Types of custody accepted by Minnesota child custody laws

Minnesota law recognizes both legal and physical custody. Legal custody specifies the right to make decisions focused on raising the child such as education and health care.  Physical custody specifies the right to make decisions focused on the child’s daily routine, including where the child lives. Both must be determined during a child custody case in Minnesota.

Minnesota child custody law and courts allow for both joint and sole custody, and these will be applied to both legal and physical custody.  In a joint legal custody arrangement, parents share the responsibilities of making decisions focused on raising the child and other important decisions like education and health care. In a joint physical custody arrangement, both parents share the responsibility of the day-to-day routine and caring for the child, and the child resides in both parents’ homes. On the other hand, sole custody arrangements signify that one parent is solely responsible for the legal and/or physical custody of a childIn some arrangements, a non-custodial parent will have parenting time, otherwise known as visitation.  A parenting time arrangement is on a set schedule that is often written into a court order.

How is child custody determined under Minnesota law?

In Minnesota, it is preferred that parents come to a mutual agreement on child custody. If an agreement cannot be reached, a court will determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. This means that a variety of factors are considered including the wishes of each parent and each child, the determination of who is currently the child's primary caregiver, the mental and physical health of all involved, the child's cultural background, and more. Sometimes the court will order parenting time evaluation, and the evaluator will make recommendations to the court. The court will consider all factors and recommendations without favoring one over another. 

The court will presume that upon request of one or both parents, joint legal custody is in the child’s best interests. If one parent is not in favor of this arrangement, they may make a case as to why they believe this. While examining the arguement posed by the rebuttal, the court will review several facts including:

  • the ability of parents to cooperate in raising their children
  • the parents' methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child, and their willingness to use those methods
  • whether it would be detrimental to the child if one parent were to have sole authority over the child’s upbringing
  • whether domestic abuse has occurred between the parents

This information is not to be used as legal advice. Please refer to a Minnesota family law professional for aide and legal information. For a list of resources in Minnesota, visit our Minnesota resources page. No matter where a family may be, the OurFamilyWizard® website is dedicated to providing co-parents with the tools and resources they need to easily manage their custody agreements. 


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.