Child custody is one of the most critical elements of a divorce case involving minor children. When one of the spouses disagrees with the child custody award, they will appeal the court’s decision in the hopes of getting a better outcome. How many times can you appeal a child custody case? The short answer is that you can appeal a child custody decision as many times as there are courts superior to the one that made the ruling.
Types of Child Custody
Minnesota child custody agreements define which parent(s) get physical and legal custody of a child. Physical custody specifies where the child lives, with whom, and when. Legal custody determines which parent(s) will make significant legal decisions for the child.
In Minnesota, there are four primary types of child custody. They are:
- Sole Physical Custody: In this custody, the court will place the children under the supervision of one parent, while the other parent will get limited or generous visitation depending on the circumstances of your case.
- Joint Physical Custody: In this type of custody, the children will stay with both parents for a significant amount of time. However, this type of custody is rare.
- Sole Legal Custody: Legal custody gives a parent the right to have a say in major decisions like health, education, religion, and general upbringing of the children. Sole legal custody means only one parent gets this right.
- Joint Legal Custody: In joint legal custody, both parents get to decide regarding the health, education, religion, and overall welfare of the children. However, both parents need to make things work. Only then the court is likely to award joint legal custody.
Contrary to common belief, joint legal custody isn’t always a 50/50 split. For example, a common joint physical custody arrangement is when the child lives with one parent during weekends and another parent on weekdays. Or one parent may receive primary physical custody, allowing him or her to decide when the other parent can visit the child.
When one parent gets primary physical custody, the other parent can still see the child. But if both parents can’t agree on a visitation schedule, the court will specify one. Courts typically grant 25% custody to the non-custodial parent unless there’s a reason that this arrangement isn’t in the child’s best interest.
Another common misconception about child custody battles is that courts place preference on the mother. However, this isn’t actually true. Minnesota courts prefer to grant joint custody whenever possible, believing that it’s in the child’s best interest to be around both parents.
The only way a child custody attorney could win you sole legal and/or physical custody is if you can prove that the other parent is unfit.
What Is an Unfit Parent in Brainerd?
Brainerd parents can lose custody of their children voluntarily or involuntarily. With voluntary custody loss, the parent gives written consent to terminate their parental rights. When a court deems a parent unfit, he or she may lose custody involuntarily.
Unfit parents in Minnesota are those who showcase abandonment, neglect, or failure to pay child support. Other factors making a parent unfit include being physically and/or emotionally abusive or failing to care for the child’s physical, emotional, or mental health.
Murder or Assault Convictions Impact in Child Custody
Parents convicted of murdering or assaulting one of his or her children, sexually abusing any child, or committing any other offense requiring sex offender registration are also unfit.
Court Ordered Adjustments
A Minnesota parent could lose custody if the child is temporarily placed in foster care for some reason, and the parent fails to make court-ordered adjustments. Conditions that could lead to a child’s placement in foster care include the parent’s chemical dependency and addiction or if the child was significantly harmed while in his or her care.
So, for instance, a parent could be deemed unfit if the child was removed from the home due to drugs being present. The court may then order the parent to attend chemical dependency rehabilitation. If the parent fails to do as requested, the court may deem him or her unfit.
Absent Birth Fathers in Minnesota
Finally, absent birth fathers are typically deemed unfit in Minnesota. An absent birth father is a father who wasn’t married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth and is not listed on the child’s birth certificate. Absent birth fathers aren’t involved in their children’s lives and don’t pay child support.
Other than these reasons, a Minnesota court would not typically award sole custody of a child. Courts instead consider the child’s best interest when determining custody agreements.
Child’s Best Interest Is Key
As an experienced child custody lawyer in Brainerd would tell you, the court always puts the child’s best interests first. Of course, the court will take into account different factors when determining child custody. However, the child’s overall best interests form the crux of their decision.
The various factors that can affect the outcome of child custody include parents’ wishes, the relation of the child with both parents, adjustment to home, school, and community, and cultural background, among other things.
The court will also check if the parent seeking custody is capable of raising a child financially, emotionally, and mentally. Just like each divorce case is unique, so is every child custody situation. You should talk to your lawyer to know your legal options.
What Factors Decide Child Custody Agreements?
How do courts decide what’s in a child’s best interest in custody battles? A judge always takes into account what each parent wants. If one parent doesn’t want custody of the child, the court is more likely to award full custody to the other parent.
Of course, the judge will also consider what the child wants. However, in Minnesota, children must be of a certain age for a judge to ask their opinion on custody battles.
Otherwise, here are the top factors courts consider when deciding on child custody:
- Who the child’s primary caretaker is currently
- Where the child has lived for most of his or her life
- How close the child is to each parent
- Where the child’s siblings or other significant relatives live
- Where the child goes to school
- The health of the family relationships in each household
- The mental and physical health of each parent
- Each parent’s suitability for giving the child love, affection, and education
- The child’s cultural background
- Whether one parent is abusive or has committed domestic abuse before
- Each parent’s willingness to cooperate with one another
In cases of joint custody, the last factor is essential. Co-parents must show how they plan to resolve any major disputes regarding the child.
What if domestic abuse has occurred between the co-parents? A Minnesota court could rule that the abuse is a detriment to your ability to cooperate and that joint custody isn’t in the child’s best interest. It’s critical to consult with a child custody attorney in Brainerd, MN to ensure you still get a fair agreement in these difficult cases.
Can You Appeal Child Custody Decision in Brainerd?
Although the short answer is “Yes,” appealing a child custody decision is not as easy as it sounds. In almost all cases, if your argument for an appeal is that the trial court didn’t get it right, the appellate court is not likely to entertain your request.
However, if your appeal is based on the argument that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard when determining the child custody, your chances of being heard are better. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed, and the possibility of filing a successful appeal will change from case to case. Make sure to discuss your case with an experienced child custody lawyer in Brainerd first.
But how many times can you appeal a court’s decision? You can only bring an appeal to a higher court and, as a general rule, you can only appeal the same court once. That means you can appeal a child custody decision as many times as there are courts superior to the one that made the ruling.
6. File for Modification Instead of Appealing
Although you can appeal the child custody order, it is often better to seek modification instead. If your current custody arrangement is no longer in the best interest of the child, you can go to the court and ask for an order modification.
However, there needs to be a change in circumstances that warrants the modification, and you should be able to prove this change in the court. For example, if the present environment threatens the mental and physical well-being of your child, the court will be more willing to change the previous custody arrangement.
If both parents agree to the modification (which does happen), the court will modify the order. Also, if the custodial parent is found guilty of criminal offenses, the custodial arrangements will be modified.
However, at least one year needs to pass from the date of issuing the original custody order before you can file for modification. If you have already filed a motion for modification before, whether or not the court granted it, you can’t file a subsequent request for at least two years. But there are exceptions to these rules as well. Talk to a competent family lawyer to discuss your options.
Getting a divorce is exceptionally difficult when children are involved. Sometimes, the child custody order can be unbearable for one of parents, resulting in an emotional decision to appeal the original custody order. However, you need to consider all your legal options carefully before proceeding with a crucial decision like this. Hopefully, this short post will help you understand a few important facts related to this issue.
Talk to an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Brainerd Today!
We know how heartbreaking it is to see an unexpected outcome of your child custody request. But don’t worry! Carlson & Jones, P.A., one of the most experienced child custody lawyers in Brainerd, are here to help you. Call us on (855) 663-7423 or contact us online to know how we can help resolve your child custody issues.
This article was originally published on October 24, 2020 and updated on August 19, 2021.