Custody, Parenting Time, & Child Support

Custody, Parenting Time, & Child Support

Legal parenting issues are challenging and highly sensitive. At the center of the legal struggles are what is most important—children. At Gislason & Hunter, we strive to bring clarity to individual circumstances, prioritize parenting goals, and build effective strategies to achieve a favorable outcome so you can have a future with those who matter most.

Child Custody

What is custody?

Custody can be broken down into two main categories: legal custody and physical custody. Generally speaking, parents may share joint legal and/or physical custody, or one parent may have sole legal and/or physical custody of the child(ren).

“Legal custody” means the right to determine the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.
“Physical custody” refers to the routine daily care and control as well as the residence of the child.
Parents may share custody, or one parent may have sole custody.

“Joint legal custody” means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities, including the right to participate in major decisions determining the child’s upbringing, including 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 the parties.

What are some of the things the court will look at to determine which parent has custody and parenting time?

The “best interests of the child” standard is key in determining the custody and parenting time of a child. These factors include:

The wishes of the child’s parents
The reasonable preference of the child
The child’s primary caretaker
The intimacy of the relationship between each parent and the child
The interaction of the child with a parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability to maintain continuity
The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home
The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
The capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion or creed
The child’s cultural background
The effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if related to domestic abuse
Except in cases in which a finding of domestic abuse has been made, the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child
The ability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of their children
Methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child, and the parent’s 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

The primary caretaker factor may not be used as a presumption in determining the best interests of the child. The court must make detailed findings on each of the factors and explain how the factors led to its conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child. The court cannot consider the conduct of a proposed custodian that does not affect the custodian’s relationship to the child. But the court must consider evidence that a parent has falsely accused the other of child abuse if such evidence exists.

If I am awarded custody, can I move out of state without telling anyone?

No. The parent with whom the child resides shall not move the residence of the child to another state except upon the order of the court or with the consent of the other parent if the other parent has been given parenting time by a dissolution of marriage decree.

Is parenting time different from custody?

Yes. Parenting time or visitation is the actual time a parent spends with a child regardless of who has court-ordered custody of the child.

What are some of the things the court will look at to determine which parent has custody and parenting time?

Just like with custody, the “best interests of the child” standard is key in determining the parenting time of a child.

Am I guaranteed parenting time with my child?

No. However, in the absence of other evidence, there is a presumption that a parent is entitled to receive at least 25 percent of the parenting time with the child.

How is parenting time determined?

The percentage of parenting time may be determined by calculating the number of overnights that a child spends with a parent, or by using a method other than overnights if the parent has significant time periods on separate days when the child is in the parent’s physical custody but does not stay overnight. The court may consider the age of the child in determining whether a child is with a parent for a significant period of time.

Can parenting time be denied if child support is not paid?

No. A parent’s failure to pay support is not sufficient cause for denial of parenting time.

Child Support

What is child support?

Child support is an award made in a legal proceeding for the care, support, and education of any child of the marriage or of the parties.

“Child” means an individual less than 18 years of age, an individual under age 20 who is still attending secondary school, or an individual who, by reason of physical or mental condition, is incapable of self-support.

“Basic support” means the basic support obligation of a party. Basic support includes the dollar amount ordered for a child’s housing, food, clothing, transportation, and education costs, and other expenses relating to the child’s care. Basic support does not include monetary contributions for child care expenses and medical and dental expenses of the child.

What about medical expenses?

“Medical support” means providing health care coverage for a joint child by carrying health care coverage for the joint child or by contributing to the cost of health care coverage, public coverage, unreimbursed medical expenses, and uninsured medical expenses of the joint child.

“Uninsured medical expenses” means a joint child’s reasonable and necessary health-related expenses if the joint child is not covered by a health plan or public coverage when the expenses are incurred.

“Unreimbursed medical expenses” means a joint child’s reasonable and necessary health-related expenses if a joint child is covered by a health plan or public coverage and the plan or coverage does not pay for the total cost of the expenses when the expenses are incurred. Unreimbursed medical expenses do not include the cost of premiums. Unreimbursed medical expenses include but are not limited to, deductibles, co-payments, expenses for orthodontia, and prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses, but not over-the-counter medications if coverage is under a health plan.

What about childcare expenses?

Child care expenses are generally expenses for daycare or other child care costs a parent incurs for a child while the parent is in school or at work.

How is child support calculated?

There are several components that need to be reviewed for purposes of calculating child support, including the gross incomes of both parents, child care expenses, medical care expenses, if the person required to pay support has nonjoint children, parenting time, and various other factors. We encourage you to contact your family law attorney if you have questions regarding the calculation of child support.

Also, the state has created a child support calculator to help people address child support issues. But caution should be taken when running numbers, particularly in calculating the income of a self-employed parent.

Custody, Parenting Time, or Child Support but Never Married

Paternity issues can be complex, both from the standpoint of applying the law, and the facts surrounding the case. The term “paternity” generally is used to describe the legal father of a child under Minnesota law. If a man is determined to be the legal father of a child, he has both the right to request custody and parenting time, as well as the obligation to provide financial support for the child.

If a child is born to parents who are not married, the father is not legally recognized until paternity is adjudicated. Until that occurs, the mother has all rights and responsibilities associated with the custody, care, and control of the child.

It is important to understand that simply having the father’s name on the birth certificate is insufficient to establish paternity. Paternity is established by completing a recognition of parentage or by a court order adjudicating paternity. Also, if a married woman has a child with someone other than her husband, Minnesota presumes that the child is that of her husband and he will be legally responsible for the child until another man establishes that he has paternity.

For men who think you may be the father of a child born to a woman who you are not married to and paternity has not yet been established, it is important that you register with the Minnesota Father’s Adoption Registry, no later than 30 days after the child’s birth. By registering, you will then be notified if a petition for adoption of the child is ever filed in a Minnesota Court.

It is important to take the matter seriously if you are in a situation where paternity is or could be an issue. Contact legal counsel to understand your rights and responsibilities and protect your interests.

Associated Attorneys


  • March 25, 2020Family LawCustody, Parenting Time & Child Support

    Child Communication and Shared Parenting Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    The Minnesota Health Department reported on Monday, March 23 that there are now 235 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. Schools have been closed, businesses have shut down, and there seem to be new developments to the crisis every day. If you are a parent with a shared parenting time schedule, you may be wondering...

  • November 25, 2019Family LawCustody, Parenting Time & Child Support

    Parenting Time Modification; What is the Standard?

    Minnesota has two statutes that seemingly set the standard for courts to decide whether to modify an order for parenting time. Minnesota Statute Section 518.175 governs parenting time, and subdivision 5(b) provides that the court shall modify parenting time if the modification would not change the child’s primary residence and if the modification would serve...

  • January 19, 2015Family LawCustody, Parenting Time & Child Support+1

    In Calculating a Business Owner’s Child Support, The Facts Are Important

    Recently, the Minnesota Court of Appeals had the opportunity to address the amount of discretion trial judges have in setting child support for Minnesota parents, specifically when determining child support for a self-employed individual. Judges first calculate child support based on the presumptive guidelines that are set by Minnesota Statute; but then judges may “deviate”...

  • October 21, 2014Family LawCustody, Parenting Time & Child Support

    Modifying Parenting Time & The Primary Residence Designation

    In Minnesota, a custody order must establish a child’s physical custody and primary residence. But nowhere in Minnesota’s family law statutes is the term “primary residence” defined. The primary residence definition is important because under Minnesota Statute Section 518.175, subd. 5(a), a court shall modify a parenting time order if it would serve the best interests...

  • June 19, 2013Family LawCustody, Parenting Time & Child Support+1

    Minnesota Supreme Court Weighs in on Child Support Calculation for Self-Employed Parents

    On May 29, 2013, in the case of Haefele v. Haefele, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the Minnesota Court of Appeals and held that when calculating a self-employed parent’s income for purposes of determining child support, the court must first identify the self-employed parent’s business’s total gross receipts, costs of goods sold, and ordinary and necessary...