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How is Parenting Time Determined in Minnesota?

a mother spending time with her daughter

Parenting time, also known as visitation, means the scheduled periods when each parent gets time with their children after a divorce. Parents may find it challenging and confusing to establish a fair parenting schedule. But how exactly do courts in Minnesota determine appropriate parenting time and visitation schedules after a divorce? What factors do family court judges carefully weigh and consider when deciding parenting time arrangements?  

Our skilled legal team provides practical guidance to divorcing parents about the parenting time process in Minnesota courts. We navigate the system so parents can secure fair parenting plans focused on the child’s best interests. Contact our law office today for responsive legal representation and guidance regarding Minnesota parenting time law.

What Is Parenting Time in Minnesota?

Parenting time in Minnesota refers to the schedule of time each parent gets with their children after a divorce or separation. It covers weekends, holidays and summers. 

Previously called “visitation,” parenting time schedules when the child is in each parent’s physical care. It’s about more than simply setting blocks of time — the goal is to allow both parents to remain actively involved in their children’s lives.

Maintaining strong bonds benefits the child. Research shows that outcomes improve when a child has regular contact with both parents after a divorce. Parenting time facilitates this goal. 

While juggling children and divorce is challenging, clearly defined parenting time and responsibilities will alleviate stress for everyone involved. If parents cannot agree on a parenting time schedule, a judge will weigh both arguments and issue a parenting schedule aligned with the child’s best interests. 

When crafting parenting time orders, Minnesota family court judges focus on safeguarding the child’s best interests. The court will aim to maximize the child’s time with both parents without significantly disrupting school and extracurricular activities. The judge will evaluate what schedule allows the child to retain close relationships with each parent and other family members. Above all, the priority is to protect the child’s physical and emotional well-being.

How Parenting Time Is Decided in Minnesota

In Minnesota, family court judges have discretion when deciding parenting time. However, their overarching mandate is to set a schedule focused on the child’s best interests. The court considers these interests and crafts a parenting time schedule to benefit the child through this major life change.

Minnesota's Best Interests of the Child Standards

To determine the child’s best interests, Minnesota judges weigh the following factors:

  • The child’s holistic needs: These include physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs. The court will weigh the effects of the proposed arrangements on the child’s development.
  • Health care needs: These cover any particular medical, mental health, developmental disability, or educational needs the child may have to require special parenting arrangements or access to recommended services.
  • Child’s preference: The court will consider the child’s preference if it deems the child has sufficient ability and maturity to express a reasonable, independent, and reliable preference.
  • Domestic abuse: The court determines whether domestic abuse, as defined in section Minnesota Statute 518B.01, has occurred in the parents’ or either parent’s household or relationship. The court’s analysis includes the nature and context of the abuse, its implications for parenting, and the child’s safety, well-being, and developmental needs.
  • Parental Health: The court will examine any physical, mental, or chemical health issue of a parent that may affect the child’s safety or developmental needs.
  • Parental participation history: The court will consider the history and nature of each parent’s participation in caring for the child.
  • Parental participation capacity: The court will determine the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child, meet continuing needs, and maintain consistency to follow through with parenting time.
  • Location considerations: The court will examine how any home, school, or community changes may affect the child’s well-being.
  • Interfamilial relationship considerations: The court will explore the effect of the proposed arrangements on the ongoing relationships between the child and each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life.
  • Parental relationship considerations: The court will weigh the benefit to the child in maximizing parenting time with both parents and the detriment to the child in limiting parenting time with either parent.
  • Mutual parental support: Except in cases where domestic abuse occurred, the court will consider each parent’s disposition toward supporting the other parent’s relationship with the child and whether they encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent.
  • Mutual parental cooperation: The court will contemplate the parents’ ability to cooperate to raise their child through open communication, shield them from conflict, and resolve disputes.

How is Parenting Time Split Between Parents?

Parenting time is scheduled according to what is best for everyone involved. The children’s school and extracurricular activity schedules, the parents’ work schedules, and other factors influence how parents exchange custody. There are some key differences in perspective depending on whether the parent seeking parenting time is the custodial or non-custodial parent.

For non-custodial parents, defined in Minnesota as the “parenting time parent,” the court will aim to set a reasonable parenting schedule allowing active involvement in the child’s life. There is an assumption of a minimum 25 percent parenting time for the non-custodial parent. The 25 percent figure is only the presumed minimum, and judges are known to award more than 25 percent to the parenting-time parent unless significant child safety concerns sway the judge against allowing more time. 

For custodial parents, defined as the “primary parent,” judges will set a schedule by prioritizing the child’s well-being and stability. However, denying parenting time is only permitted in extreme circumstances, given the public policy goal of facilitating ongoing involvement by both parents.

Parenting Plans in Minnesota

In Minnesota, parents may develop a parenting plan independently or with the court’s assistance. Parenting plans typically include the following:

  • Detailed parenting time schedules, including weekends, holidays, and summers
  • Transportation arrangements
  • Decision-making authority over aspects such as education, medical care, and religion
  • Communication expectations, including phone calls, mail, and email
  • Dispute resolution process
  • Moving procedures
  • Child support terms
  • Determining legal custody, whether it be joint custody, sole custody to one parent, or an alternative arrangement
  • Residential agreements and child care

While not legally required under Minnesota law, a comprehensive written parenting plan is highly recommended for divorcing parents. A detailed parenting plan provides much-needed clarity and gives both parents a clearly defined framework and guidelines for raising their children after the marriage’s dissolution.

Plans are especially critical when relationships between the former spouses are contentious and antagonistic. Parenting plans help minimize disputes between hostile exes and provide practical ground rules and boundaries for tense interactions and transitions. However, even amicably separated and relatively friendly former partners can benefit from having clearly outlined, well-detailed parenting time expectations, schedules, provisions, and procedures stipulated in an agreement.

When Parenting Time Can Be Modified in Minnesota

Under Minnesota custody laws, parenting time orders are modifiable. However, courts apply a high standard when considering changes. The parent seeking modification must prove the following:

  • A substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the original order.
  • The current schedule is not in the child’s best interests.
  • The revised schedule would be in the child’s best interests.

Examples of substantial changes include the following:

  • A parent relocates a considerable distance
  • A parent’s work schedule shifts significantly
  • A child reaches a different developmental stage or age
  • A parent’s relational, employment, or health status changes

When a child grows older, their needs often change. It’s common for parents to petition the court for parenting time modifications to accommodate those needs. For instance, an inflexible visitation schedule with frequent exchanges may have been suitable for an infant but may now unduly disrupt an established school-aged child’s routine. Although the original court order always remains the legally binding custody arrangement, divorced parents can mutually negotiate and consent to reasonable interim changes in parenting time arrangements using stipulated temporary orders while they await court action on a formal modification motion.


How Long Can a Parenting Time Schedule Be Enforced?

In Minnesota, child custody and parenting time orders remain effective until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever comes later, but not beyond the child’s 20th birthday, unless the child is deemed incapable of supporting themselves due to a mental or physical disability. After that point, the schedule cannot be enforced.

What Is a Parenting Time Expeditor?

parenting time expeditor is a neutral third party appointed by a Minnesota court to help divorced parents resolve disputes over parenting schedules. They facilitate compromises but cannot modify existing orders.

Can a Custodial Parent Move Out of the State?

If the parent with primary custody of the child needs to move out of Minnesota, they must first get court approval or the other divorced parent’s written consent. Without first securing permission, the custodial parent may be legally prohibited from moving with the child. Relocation with a child of divorced parents presents complex legal custody issues, especially when moving across state lines away from the other parent’s residence. There are specific laws and court procedures around interstate moves by custodial parents.

Can Grandparents Get Visitation Rights?

In limited circumstances, Minnesota courts may grant visitation rights to grandparents. These rights include cases where a parent has denied or interfered with the grandparent-grandchild relationship without good cause or where the parent is deceased. However, courts cannot award visitation that contradicts the parents’ agreement.

Let Our Skilled Child Custody Lawyers Help With Your Case

The child custody and divorce lawyers at Milavetz Injury Law understand the complex emotions and legal issues involved in determining parenting time after a Minnesota divorce. We have decades of experience helping local parents through this challenging process.

Our attorneys will advise you on your rights under Minnesota law and provide experienced legal guidance tailored to your unique situation. We know how judges make parenting time decisions and what factors they emphasize. We will fight to secure a fair schedule focused on your child’s best interests.

If you are going through a divorce or have questions about how parenting time works, reach out to our compassionate and skilled family law attorneys. If you want to set up or modify a parenting time agreement in Minnesota, contact our office today at 763-560-0000 to schedule a free consultation. Our capable team is here to help you during this sensitive time.

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