How to Get Custody of a Child in Buffalo, Minnesota

It’s a common misconception that Minnesota mothers get custody of a child more often than fathers. And it’s no wonder since some US states do award child custody time disproportionately to mothers.

In Minnesota, however, judges almost always prefer to grant equal custody time to fathers and mothers. That means fathers get an average of 183 days of the year, and mothers get the remaining days.

Are you seeking child custody in Buffalo, Minnesota? If so, a local child custody lawyer can help you start the process. But before you schedule your initial consultation, here are some things you need to know about child custody in the North Star State.

Reasons You Might Want to File for Custody in Buffalo

Many people assume that the only reason to file for child custody is during a divorce. But there are actually a handful of situations where filing for custody (or changing your custody agreement) is necessary, including when:

  • You and your spouse are filing for annulment, legal separation, or divorce and want a custody agreement
  • You and your partner never got married, have a child together, and want a custody agreement
  • A court orders a paternity test
  • Domestic abuse has occurred

Legal guardians may also file for custody if they are the sole caregiver to the child. Other times a custody agreement may be useful include cases of juvenile delinquency or if a child needs protective services (called CHIPS cases in Minnesota).

Reasons You Might Want to Change a Custody Agreement in Minnesota

It’s not uncommon for parents to seek a change in the original custody agreement. For example, the following situations might spur the need for a custody agreement alteration:

  • One parent isn’t following the court-ordered custody agreement
  • Domestic abuse
  • One parent wants to move out of state with the child

A family law attorney specializing in child custody can help you create or change your custody agreement. But first, you need to understand what type of custody you want to file for exactly.

What Kind of Custody Do You Want in Minnesota?

There are two types of custody and two ways courts can award each type. The two types of custody are physical and legal custody. The two ways courts can award physical and legal custody are with a joint or sole custody agreement.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

In Minnesota, legal custody gives the parent or parents the right to make decisions about legal matters. These matters include where the child will go to school, what church (if any) the child will attend, and any decisions regarding the child’s health care.

Physical custody, on the other hand, grants parent(s) the right to make decisions about the child’s daily activities. More importantly, the physical custody agreement determines where the child lives and for how long.

Joint vs. Sole Custody

Custody agreements can either grant one parent custody of the child or both parents custody of the child. The former situation is known as a full custody agreement, while the latter is called joint custody.

During a custody hearing, the court must decide on full vs. joint custody for both legal and physical matters. In other words, both legal and physical custody can be either joint or full. An agreement could grant one parent full physical custody but mandate joint legal custody and vice versa.

Full or sole physical custody gives one parent the right to decide where the child lives and what he or she does on a day-to-day basis. Full or sole legal custody allows one parent to make decisions about schools, religion, and health care.

The parent with full or sole custody is the “primary custodial parent.” The non-custodial parent may still have court-ordered visitation rights, though.

Joint custody allows both parents to split legal and physical responsibility for the child. Minnesota judges tend to agree that joint custody is preferable in almost all cases because they believe joint agreements are in children’s best interest.

However, joint doesn’t always mean equal. There are some cases where the child splits time 50/50 with each parent. But it’s more common that one parent may take care of the child during weekdays, while the other parent cares for the child on weekends or holidays.

Minimum Requirements for Filing for Custody in Minnesota

In Minnesota, a judge doesn’t have to decide the child custody agreement in court. If two parents can agree on the terms of the agreement, they can hire a family lawyer to file a Stipulation and Order of custody.

Even if you and your co-parent never got married, you can qualify for a Joint Petition for Establishing Custody as long as you previously filed a Recognition of Parentage form. With a lawyer’s assistance, you and your co-parent can then draft the terms of the agreement. However, if two parents fail to compromise, the decision will be left up to a judge.

To file a child custody case, the child must live in Minnesota with a parent or legal guardian for six consecutive months. The only exception is emergency custody situations in which the parent seeking custody must prove the child is in immediate danger of injury or loss.

Additional Requirements for Getting Custody in Minnesota

As we mentioned above, the child’s or children’s best interest is the most important factor in court-ordered child custody agreements. But how exactly does the court determine what’s in the child’s best interest? Here are some of the factors judges use:

  • How willing the parents are to compromise on matters regarding the child’s life
  • The child’s physical, emotional, cultural, and medical needs
  • The child’s preferences, especially if the child is over eight years old
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to provide ongoing care for the child, especially as evidenced by each parent’s history of caring for the child
  •  Any significant relationships between the child and siblings, grandparents, etc.
  • Whether domestic abuse has occurred
  • How the child would be impacted by potential changes in where he or she lives and/or goes to school

Most of all, judges consider how detrimental it would be to the child to share equal time with each parent. They also consider the opposite — would it hurt the child if he or she had limited time with one parent?

Deployment, false child abuse reports, some disabilities, drug abuse, and a criminal record can also impact a parent’s ability to parent. So, judges will take these matters into account when determining the final custody agreement.

How to Start the Custody Process in Minnesota

The process of getting child custody in Minnesota depends on whether you and the child’s other parent are willing to work together. Also, if you and the child’s parent never married, you will also have to go through a slightly different process.

How to Get Custody for Unmarried Parents Who Can Compromise

If you and your co-parent never got married and don’t have an existing custody agreement, you can seek a custody agreement without going to court. Simply download, sign, and file this Joint Petition.

However, you and your co-parent must have previously filed a Recognition of Parentage form with Minnesota’s Department of Health to file the petition.

How to Get Custody for Unmarried Parents Who Can’t Compromise

If you and your child’s other parent never got married, don’t have a custody agreement, and can’t compromise, you’ll need to go to court. The judge will decide on the terms of the custody agreement for you.

To get started with this process, parents who never got married but filed a Recognition of Parentage form can submit a Request to Establish Custody and Parenting Time. If you and your co-parent never signed an ROP, the court must establish paternity before making the custody agreement.

How to Get Custody for Married Parents Who Can Compromise

Parents who are or who were previously married, have a child together, and can compromise on the agreement’s terms can file for custody outside of court. You and your co-parent will have to file a Stipulation and Order.

The state of Minnesota doesn’t freely provide the Stipulation and Order form. The best way to obtain one is to speak with a local child custody attorney.

How to Get Custody for Married Parents Who Can’t Compromise

Minnesota doesn’t freely provide child custody filing forms for married parents who need a judge to determine the agreement. This is because child custody usually gets decided during divorce or legal separation. A divorce attorney who also specializes in child custody can help you begin this process.

Once you have a custody agreement in place, you can request a change in your agreement. We recommend speaking to a child custody attorney to help you secure the best possible outcome.

Call a Child Custody Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

Before you file for custody in Minnesota, you need to know whether you want full or joint legal and physical custody. You must reside in Minnesota with your child for 180 days before you can begin the process. The exact process you go through will depend on whether you and the child’s other parent were ever married.

Do you need an experienced child custody lawyer to help you navigate Buffalo, Minnesota’s complex laws? We’re here for you. Call Carlson & Jones today to schedule a free consultation with our child custody lawyers.


How Your Criminal History Can Impact Your Child Custody Case in Brainerd, MN

It is relatively easier for married couples who don’t have children to get a divorce. But for divorcing parents, the topmost concern is getting child custody.

Child custody disputes are often challenging, especially when both parents provide the court with compelling arguments. Both parents are interested in winning either physical or legal custody of their kids as soon as possible.

Like in any other state, the courts in Minnesota also consider the best interest of the children when settling custody disputes. That’s why, the criminal history of both parents plays a critical role in determining child custody. If you have a criminal record, no matter how insignificant, you should consult an experienced child custody lawyer in Brainerd, MN before taking any decision.

Let’s see how the process works and whether you can win a child custody battle despite having a criminal record.

1. How Is Child Custody Determined in Brainerd, MN

In Minnesota, you need to meet the residency requirements to file for child custody. The law states that the child must have lived with the parent or the person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months. There are exceptions to this rule. However, it is better to consult an experienced child custody lawyer in Brainerd, MN to understand whether these exceptions apply in your case.

Like most other states, Minnesota also offers two primary forms of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines which parent the children can stay with. Usually, one of the parents gets physical custody. In some cases, however, both parents can share joint physical custody of their children.

On the other hand, legal custody determines which parent will have the right to make decisions about the upbringing of the children. It usually gives you the right to make decisions regarding religion, medical treatment, and education, among other things.

2. Factors Considered to Determine the Child Custody

Keeping the best interests of the children in mind is top priority when making child custody decisions in Minnesota. As per the Minnesota law, the courts consider 12 different factors when determining child custody.

First on the list is the physical safety and mental well-being of the children, followed by their educational and medical needs. The court will also consider children’s preferences if they are old enough. Furthermore, the court will take into account parenting time, social development of the children, physical and mental fitness of parents, financial situation, and willingness of both parents to cooperate.

However, each child custody case is different. That’s why you are better off consulting an experienced child custody lawyer in Brainerd, MN before making any decision. It is also possible to resolve custody issues amicably or through mediation, which is less stressful and more affordable.

3. Can You Win a Child Custody Battle Despite a Criminal Record?

When determining child custody in Minnesota, the court will look at your and your spouse’s criminal history. They will also check the criminal record of your new partner if you are in a relationship. However, the family court will look at your criminal history from the perspective of how it could affect your ability to raise the children.

In other words, if your criminal record consists of felony offenses and convictions, you are less likely to win a child custody battle. For example, if you have a history of violence, it will most certainly affect your ability to get custody even if the crime was committed before the child was born.

If you have been convicted of crimes like domestic violence, sexual abuse, and child abuse, the court is more likely to sack your rights as a parent. The court will take this decision based on the logical assumption that it is not in the best interest of the children to stay with a violent and/or abusive parent.

However, if you have an isolated incident, such as underage drinking or a DUI, you are still likely to win a child custody battle as the family court will be considerate. Also, if you are being charged with a crime and not yet convicted, your experienced child custody lawyer in Brainerd, MN can pursue the court to put less weight on charges compared to a conviction.

But, if you are convicted of the said crime, it could result in the revocation of your parental rights in future. That’s why you should make sure your criminal defense lawyer and child custody attorney are on the same page. You should never hide any criminal history from your lawyer.


As you can see, your criminal history may have a significant impact on your child custody battle. However, there are no generalizations when considering prior criminal behavior of a parent filing for child custody as each case has its own merits and demerits. Overall, it is necessary to hire a competent child custody attorney as soon as possible to increase your chances of winning your children’s custody.

Talk to an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Brainerd, MN Today!

As a parent, you have the right to be involved in your children’s lives even after the divorce. If you are filing for or contesting child custody in Brainerd, MN, Carlson & Jones, P.A. can help you. Our experienced lawyers will fight for and protect your parental rights. Call us on (855) 976-2444 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

Why Should a Law Firm in Buffalo, MN File a Paternity Action?

In the United States, almost half of all children are born out of wedlock. The proportion is much higher in certain ethnic groups. For many families, such births are the best possible lifestyle choice for everyone concerned.

Like all the decisions we make, these choices have some costs. In this case, these costs are both financial and emotional. As mentioned, these costs are usually worth paying.

However, a law firm in Buffalo, MN can easily minimize these costs. Generally, the legal process is rather straightforward. And, the benefits of a paternity order are difficult to ignore.

Protection for You and Your Child

Some mothers have very poor relationships with biological fathers. Many mothers are afraid to disclose their addresses in court documents. Generally, a law firm in Buffalo, MN can redact this information, so it’s unavailable to anyone other than the judge and court personnel.

Additionally, most paternity actions include protective orders. These orders generally last at least until the case is over, and many times, they become permanent injunctions in the final paternity decree. These orders prohibit biological fathers from going certain places and doing certain things. The orders might also limit firearm ownership and contain other such provisions.

Protective orders are more than pieces of paper. Violating a protective order, even in a nonviolent manner, is a serious offense. Additionally, these orders allow mothers to give daycares and other groups notice about the situation.

Financial Support

In terms of child support, Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments are designed to give children the lifestyle they would have if their parents were married. So, in many cases, the child support obligation is substantial.

Buffalo, MN law firms can include other financial support provisions as well. Typically, biological fathers must include their children on their group health insurance plans. Moreover, a Wright County judge might order the biological father to pay for part of the hospital bill, reimburse the mother for certain costs, and pay other expenses.

A Buffalo, MN Law Firm and a Written Visitation Plan

Some mothers have relatively good relationships with biological fathers. They have an informal and unwritten parenting timeshare plan which works pretty well. But even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. It’s much better to have things in writing. If these writings are enforceable in court, that’s better still. The parties can still generally agree on any parenting time division. But the written orders give everyone something to fall back on.

Many parenting plans also include limitations where appropriate. For example, a father might lack the parenting skills to take care of a baby for more than a few hours. Or, the father might have a substance abuse problem or a bad temper. A Buffalo, MN law firm can insert requirements like parenting classes and alcohol treatment into a paternity order. Generally, contact with the child is tied to the successful completion of these conditions.

These provisions often help biological fathers grow up and become responsible parents. This change has some other benefits as well, as outlined below.

Access to Medical Records

When children get sick, doctors often rely on family medical history to make accurate diagnoses. If the doctor only has access to the mother’s family medical history, the doctor only has half the pieces to a puzzle, at best.

A legal paternity order gives physicians full access to all family medical history. That additional access could make a big difference in your child’s health.

Emotional Aspects

In many ways, paternity orders are like adoption decrees or name change orders. These legal documents have emotional power. Children have identifiable fathers, and fathers are more like dads. As mentioned, that same father-to-dad transformation positively affects many fathers.

Moreover, at some point in the future, many children become curious about their parents’ ancestry and family history. A paternity order now makes these future conversations much easier to have.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Paternity orders have financial and emotional benefits for mothers and children. For a free consultation at a Buffalo, MN law firm, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

When Can Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys Modify Parenting Plans?

Remarriage, onset or removal of disability, and relocation are probably the three most common parenting plan modification triggers in Wright County. The parenting plan modification could involve different time divisions, pickup or dropoff locations, supervision of visitation, or changes to educational, medical, and other provisions concerning the children.

Overall, the requested modification must be in the best interests of the children. Minnesota law sets out a number of factors that judges use to determine a child’s best interests. Buffalo, MN family law attorneys must be mindful of these factors both in court and during settlement negotiations. Wright County judges normally do not approve settlement agreements which do not uphold the child’s best interests.

Threshold for Custody Modification

Threshold issues are things that Buffalo, MN family law attorneys must establish in their pleadings and in a preliminary hearing as well. In order for a judge to consider a motion to modify a parenting plan, all of the following circumstances must be present:

  • Significant Change of Circumstances: This category is rather vague and rather easy for a Buffalo, MN family law attorney to establish. Generally, anything that concerns the child on a daily or ongoing basis is a significant change of circumstances. A parent’s remarriage is a significant chance of circumstances if the new spouse affects the child’s well-being in a substantial way.
  • Recent Change: In a modification procedure, anything which happened prior to the existing order’s entry is irrelevant. That includes supposed parental misdeeds, such as using drugs in the child’s presence. On a related note, the change must have been unanticipated. Children get older, so a child’s age is never a proper basis for modification.
  • Best Interests: There is a difference between the best interests of the child and the child’s preference. There is also a difference between the best interests of the parent and the best interests of the children.

The moving party must establish each threshold issue by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Supporting Circumstances

In some states, in addition to the aforementioned threshold issues, it is enough to show that the existing parenting time division is unworkable or inappropriate. But Minnesota judges require more. Motons to modify parenting time divisions must rest on one of the following:

  • Interference with Current Parenting Time Schedule: Interference is usually an intentional act. Parents do not accidentally interfere with parenting time provisions. However, a Wright County judge might presume that conduct is intentional if there is repeated misconduct.
  • Endangerment of Physical Health or Emotional Well-Being: This is perhaps the most common basis for modification. Almost anything could impair the child’s emotional development in some way. Parents who cite this basis must also show that the pros outweigh the cons.
  • Both Parties Agree: Many judges approve agreed modifications without holding hearings. For this reason, Buffalo, MN family law attorneys often encourage clients to participate in pre-filing mediation. That way, they can present an agreed order to the judge.
  • Illegal Interstate Move: If a court orders a parent to remain within the state with the child and the parent relocates out of state anyway, that disobedience is an independent basis for parenting time modification. It’s probably also a basis for redesignating the residential and nonresidential parents.

Once again, the moving party must establish these facts by a preponderance of the proof. Imagine two stacks of paper sitting side by side. If someone moves one sheet of paper from the left to the right, the stack on the right is bigger than the one on the left. That’s a picture of a preponderance of the evidence.

Talk to an Experienced Lawyer

Parenting time modifications must be in the child’s best interests. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.

How Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN Prove Key Child Custody Factors in Court

Minnesota law requires parenting time divisions in both original determinations and modification actions to uphold the best interests of the children. Since this concept is a bit nebulous, Minnesota law sets out a number of factors to follow, and the law recently changed on this point.

Most child custody determinations and modifications settle out of court, so lawyers in Hutchinson, MN must be mindful of these factors during settlement negotiations. Otherwise, the McLeod County judge may not approve the settlement agreement.

However, awareness alone is not enough. There must be sufficient evidence to support each point, especially if the matter goes to mediation or trial.

Each Child’s Regular Needs

Children need boundaries and rules. Even if they do not admit it, children also like boundaries and rules. Some parents are better than others at establishing rules like do your homework, brush your teeth, and go to bed on time. Additionally, children need consistency. As a result, the parenting time division in the temporary orders often finds its way into the final orders, even if the arrangement is not perfect.

Each Child’s Special Needs

Mental health, educational, medical, or other special needs usually require a doctor’s or specialist’s diagnosis. Additionally, a professional must recommend a course of treatment. If the special needs child has shown some progress while undergoing this physical therapy, special tutoring, or other treatment, that’s even better. Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN can point out that consistent treatment is ideal in uncertain circumstances, such as divorce.

Child’s Preference

Ideally, the child should sign a written document expressing a preference. If that’s not possible, testimonial evidence is probably sufficient. Indirect testimonial evidence (e.g. Timmy had fun when I took him to the zoo) is not terribly compelling, but it is probably relevant.

Domestic Abuse

Most of these factors have roughly equal weight. But domestic abuse could be a deal-breaker. Significantly, the abuse could have occurred many years ago and in a different family setting. However, old evidence may not rise to the deal-breaking level of current abuse. In any case, lawyers in Hutchinson, MN should always act to preserve your rights in domestic abuse situations. These allegations could have incredibly serious repercussions.

Parent’s Disability

This disability could be physical, mental, or emotional. Chemical dependence on an illegal substance also qualifies as a disability. The condition must have a material effect on the child’s emotional development or physical safety. Moderate tobacco use probably is not a concern, but moderate or excessive alcohol use could definitely be a concern.

Parent’s Past Participation in Child-Rearing Activities

Attending athletic contests, watching school plays, showing up at parent-teacher nights, and having lunch with a child at school are examples of parental participation. If parents cannot point to incidents like these, lawyers in Hutchinson, MN often have a hard time winning custody fights.

Family and Non-Family Relationships

Is the child particularly close to another child in the neighborhood or to a certain relative, like a maternal grandmother or paternal aunt? If that’s the case, many McLeod County family law judges will think twice about relocation a child, especially if the relocation is a long-distance move.

Contact with Both Parents

There is a presumption in Minnesota law that frequent, meaningful, and consistent contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child. If a parenting time division does not include such contact, unless domestic abuse or some other extreme circumstances are present, the proposed division may not be in the child’s best interests. This factor, like domestic abuse, is often make or break.

Parental Preference

The preference of each parent may be almost as important as a child’s preference. Sometimes, parents express their preferences directly, often in an agreed settlement document. Other times, the expression is indirect. As mentioned, parents who showed little interest in field trips and getting homework done often are not the best residential parents.

Ability to Co-Parent

Co-parenting starts with tolerating the other parent and being civil when the child is present, but that’s only a start. Additionally, a residential parent must actively encourage interaction between the child and non-residential parent. This encouragement could involve cajoling, bribing, or threatening the child if the child does not want to visit the other parent. Moreover, co-parenting means refraining from posting negative things about the other parent on social media. In fact, positive posts may be required, if a parent wants to make a strong case for primary custody.

Connect with an Experienced Attorney

Evidence in child custody disputes is essential. For a free consultation with an experienced lawyer in Hutchinson, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Why Should a Hutchinson, MN Child Custody Lawyer File a Paternity Action?

If you fathered a child with a woman who is not your wife, join the crowd. Largely due to the declining marriage rate, out-of-wedlock births now account for about 40 percent of U.S. births. The proportion is almost twice as high among certain ethnic groups.

Most mothers in these situations are not irresponsible people. Many want to have children, but they do not want to get married. Likewise, most fathers in this situation are not irresponsible people either. They visit their children and pay financial support.

So, many dads want to leave well enough alone. They understandably do not want ex-girlfriends scrutinizing their financial affairs and digging into their personal relationships. They also do not want a McLeod County judge to dictate orders.

In most cases, these fears are unfounded. In terms of child support, Minnesota is an income share state, so support payments are in line with both parents’ incomes. Furthermore, most paternity claims settle out of court. Since Hutchinson, MN child custody lawyers do all the work, most personal information in the case remains private. In fact, the only court intervention may occur at the end of the case, when a judge signs the agreed order.

So, when fathers file paternity actions, they have basically nothing to lose and some significant things to gain, as outlined below.

Familial Benefits

In most cases, only a final paternity order establishes a legal father-child relationship. Signing the birth certificate, in and of itself, is usually insufficient.

Such a declaration is the first step toward a lifelong emotional relationship. As a father, you have the legal right to spend time with your child. If the mother does anything to hinder that relationship, no matter how subtle it is, she could lose custody of the child.

Furthermore, only legal fathers usually have the right o be on school mailing lists and other such items. So, dads know about school plays, field trips, awards ceremonies, and other events. Moreover, if your child is in an athletic or other contest, you have the right to attend.

When children get older, thoughts often turn to inheritance and succession. If you want to include your children in these things, you must be their legal father. When children are very young, it is usually easier to work with a Hutchinson, MN child custody lawyer to establish paternity. The longer you wait, the more difficult this process becomes.

There is also an intangible familial benefit. Mothers may make lifestyle choices, but children need to be involved in families. A family is still a family, even if everyone does not live under the same roof.

Hutchinson, MN Child Custody Lawyers, Fathers, and Financial Benefits of Paternity

Yes, a paternity action has financial benefits for fathers. As mentioned, most fathers already support their children financially. So, a paternity order simply puts these informal arrangements into writing.

Once this paperwork is in place, fathers get credit for everything they pay. The mother cannot later claim she did not receive support. Additionally, most family support arrangements include wage withholding and other such orders. So, fathers do not have to make manual payments. The money automatically goes to the state, which is responsible for sending the money to the mother.

There is sometimes some overlap between the financial and familial benefits. For various reasons, some intentional and some unintentional, mothers sometimes make it difficult for fathers to see their children. Legally, support payments and visitation are two separate things. No one can deny visitation because the father is temporarily behind on a financial support obligation.

On a final note, many fathers receive Social Security and other government benefits. Legal children may be able to obtain these benefits as well.

Medical Benefits

Family history is a very important diagnostic tool. If the doctor only has the mother’s medical family history, the doctor only knows half the story.

Additionally, most group health insurance plans allow policyholders to include legal dependents on their insurance policies. This coverage is often the least expensive option that provides high-quality care. Moreover, this arrangement lets fathers stay in control of their children’s’ health insurance needs.

Finally, if a child goes to the hospital, the hospital will only inform the legal father, in most cases. Similarly, the hospital can prohibit most people from visiting the child, but these prohibitions normally do not apply to legal fathers.

Work with a Dedicated Attorney

Paternity actions have benefits for mothers, children, and fathers. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN child custody lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can start fighting for you.

Why Mothers and Fathers Should Pursue Paternity Actions

The days of social taboos against single mothers are long gone. The unwed parent birth rate has almost doubled since 1970. In certain areas and among certain ethnic groups, the rate has increased even more.

Contrary to popular myth, signing the birth certificate does not make a man a legal father, in most cases. Typically, a Buffalo, MN lawyer must get a judge to sign a paternity order. This order has substantial benefits for both mothers and fathers, as outlined below.

Generally, the process is rather straightforward, especially if your Buffalo, MN lawyer is experienced in this area. Typically, both parties agree on paternity. If they do not, the judge usually orders a non-invasive DNA swab test. This simple test is about 98 percent conclusive. After that, it is just a matter of working out the details.

Five Reasons Fathers Need Buffalo, MN Paternity Lawyers

Many fathers already take their parenting responsibilities seriously, even without court orders. But there are some very compelling reasons why, at least in this context, it is never a good idea to leave well enough alone. The relative ease of the legal paternity process drives home this point even more.

Guaranteed Parenting Time

Many dads look forward to their weekend and other visits with their kids. Such frequent and consistent contact is also in the best interests of the children, in most cases. But circumstances change, such as residential locations. Attitudes change as well. Legal paperwork is the best way, and usually the only way, to guarantee contact between fathers and children.

Possibility of Becoming the Residential Parent

Primary custody may not be on your radar right now. But, as mentioned, things change. The mother’s life could deteriorate to the point that she is not a very good parent. The mother could also suddenly die due to an accident or illness. In these situations, even though the father is blood kin, the father may have no standing in court to assert his rights. Only a Buffalo, MN lawyer can formalize the relationship between fathers and children.

Credit for Support Payments

As mentioned, many dads do not need court orders to tell them they need to step up. Typically, this assumption of responsibility includes paying child support. But unless this money goes through the proper channels, fathers may not receive credit for the payments they make. Furthermore, official support payment eliminates problems like the mother’s lack of a bank account or her claims that she did not receive the money.

School Event Notice

As children go through school, they are in plays and performances, their classes take field trips, and there are other milestone events. Generally, only legal fathers get to be on the mailing, call, and pickup lists. If you want to be there for your child, you probably should partner with a Buffalo, MN lawyer and make that happen.

Prevent Unilateral Action

Unless official and current paperwork is on file, a mother can unilaterally relocate or change the children’s school without giving any notice to anyone. In some cases, she may even be able to put a child up for adoption without giving notice to the biological father. A paternity order keeps you in the loop without unduly compromising the mother’s right to be a mom.

Five Reasons Mothers Need Buffalo, MN Paternity Lawyers

Raising a child alone is not easy, from either an emotional or financial standpoint. Assistance is not always welcome or necessary, but most parents accept all the help they can get. Establishing a legal relationship between the biological father and your child is the best way to obtain financial and emotional help.

Prevent Unilateral Action

Yes, this is the same point we just covered above, but it is not a typo. The father may help now both emotionally and financially, but without court orders, the father can pull the plug on that support at any time. Such unilateral action leaves you in the lurch, which is why Buffalo, MN lawyers work hard to prevent situations like these.

Regular Child Support

Paternity orders almost always include child support orders. Typically, the obligor (person paying support) must pay via wage withholding order or through the Attorney General. Either way, your payments are basically guaranteed. In Minnesota, child support orders usually include medical support orders as well. The obligor must furnish health insurance for the children and also pay a share of unreimbursed medical expenses, like copays and uncovered costs.

Medical Expense Reimbursement

Even a relatively trouble-free birth may cost thousands of dollars. If there are any complications, however slight, these costs could easily double or triple. In many cases, a Buffalo, MN lawyer can include language in the court order requiring the obligor to pay half these costs.

Family History

When you take your children to the doctor, family history plays a big part in illness diagnosis, especially in certain cases. Unless the doctor has access to the father’s family medical history, s/he must diagnose and treat the condition with only part of the available information. A paternity order, and family medical history order, is usually the only way a doctor can fill in these blanks.

Ground Rules

Many times, unmarried parents get along better than married ones. But that’s not always the case. If the father is stalking you or has been physically violent in the past, paternity orders may include a permanent restraining order. Such an order usually prohibits the father from hurting you or your family in any way.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Paternity actions have tangible benefits for mothers, fathers, and children. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

A Hutchinson Family Law Layer Examines the Custody/Visitation Process

Although the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, it is still above 40 percent. Among subsequent marriages, the divorce rate is even higher. Not all these marriage dissolutions involve minor children, but most of them do.

In some states, divorce only partially resolves all the financial and emotional issues. But Hutchinson family law lawyers address all these things in one proceeding. As a result, family law matters in McLeod County are rather complex. While they are all different, most of them follow a common procedural pattern. Some basic knowledge helps our clients make better decisions about their family’s emotional and financial future.

Guiding Principles in a Custody/Visitation Dispute

These issues include both legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions, such as where the children will live, as well as the right to receive child support. Physical custody determines where the children spend their time. The standard every other weekend/every other holiday division is not as common as it used to be, but it still forms the basis for many parenting time arrangements.

According to Minnesota law, the parenting time division must be in the best interests of the children. Furthermore, there is a presumption that regular and predictable contact with both parents benefits children.

Sometimes, it is hard to break these overarching principles down and apply them to specific parenting plans. After all, every family is different. To make this process easier, Section 518.17 sets out a few factors to consider in these situations, and these factors have recently changed. Some highlights include:

  • Each child’s emotional, physical, medical, spiritual, cultural, and other needs,
  • Any special needs,
  • Child’s preference,
  • Parental preference,
  • History of domestic abuse, and
  • Ability to co-parent.

As outlined below, most parenting time disputes settle out of court. But a judge must still approve a settlement. That approval probably will not happen if one or more factors are substantially out of whack. For example, a judge may not approve an agreement that gives a physically abusive parent substantial parenting time, even if the incident is several decades old.

The Temporary Hearing

Hutchinson family law lawyers must hit the ground running in parenting time disputes. Things happen quickly, and it’s difficult to reverse decisions made early in the process.

At the temporary hearing, which usually occurs about two weeks into the case, the judge makes interim custody and support orders. Technically, these orders expire once the case is finalized. But as a practical matter, they are a blueprint for the final orders. Most children need consistency, so most judges want to leave the existing parenting time division in place, even if it is not perfect.

In other words, unless your Hutchinson family law lawyer is well-prepared and speaks up loudly at the temporary hearing, you may be playing from behind for the rest of the game. Comeback wins are certainly not impossible, but they are rather unlikely.

Social Services Investigations and Discovery

In most cases, McLeod County family law judges will not substantially change an interim custody plan unless compelling new evidence emerges. So, the social services investigation and discovery process are just as important as the temporary hearing.

Most judges appoint social workers in disputed parenting time cases. The social worker does some background research and, more importantly, interviews the children, parents, and other key people, such as doctors, teachers, and clergy.

The social worker then submits a report to the court, and this report usually includes a custody recommendation. That recommendation is not binding, but it does have considerable sway. Judges almost always accept the social worker’s conclusion.

Indirectly, a Hutchinson family law lawyer controls this process. Typically, the parties have considerable input in the social worker selection process. Some of these individuals are biased toward mothers or fathers. An attorney can also suggest certain approaches (e.g. please interview Dr. Smith) and prepare the parent for the sometimes-intimidating home study.

Speaking of medical records, these are very important during discovery, as they reveal a lot about a family. For example, some parents “doctor shop” by going to different physicians until they find one who agrees with their conclusions. Other doctors prescribe large amounts of strong drugs for rather minor conditions.

Sometimes, the parties conduct discovery by agreement, and the process is quick and cheap. Other times, disputes arise, and these disputes can be protracted and expensive.

How Do Hutchinson Family Law Lawyers Resolve Child Custody Disputes?

Mediation resolves most parenting time disputes and other family law cases in McLeod County.

Curiously, the vast majority of people believe that mediation will be a waste of time. If we could have talked out our problems, they reason, we would not have hired Hutchinson family law lawyers. But mediation is at least partially successful about 75 percent of the time. Mediation eliminates millions of dollars of legal fees and thousands of hours of litigation. These savings have significant benefits for area families.

Work with Assertive Attorneys

Preparation and understanding are very important in custody/visitation disputes. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson family law lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we’ll start working for you.


The Twelve New Child Custody Factors in McLeod County

Prior to 2015, Hutchinson child custody lawyers dealt with a complex array of child custody factors, especially if the divorce order include a joint custody decree with an every other weekend/every other holiday-type parenting time split. At that time, such divisions were basically the only ones that McLeod County family judges approved.

Then, after a cadre of lawyers, experts, and family advocates examined the issue, the Legislature significantly re-worked the list of child custody factors in Minnesota. The new, streamlined list is much easier for lay people to understand, and quite frankly, easier for Hutchinson child custody lawyers to understand as well.

Section 518.17 now contains the following factors to be used in parenting time determinations. There are typically two issues in these determinations. Legal custody means the right to make important decisions, such as where the children will live, where they will go to school, and so on. Physical custody is the parenting time division. Minnesota law presumes that children benefit from frequent and consistent contact with both their biological parents.

Childrens’ Regular Needs

Everyone has “physical, emotional, cultural, [and] spiritual” needs. Additionally, children rely exclusively on their caregivers to provide food, clothing, shelter, companionship, education, and other basic needs. This overall factor essentially establishes the framework for all the other listed child custody factors.

Childrens’ Special Needs

This new factor addresses the uniqueness of each child. Some children have medical, educational, emotional, and other needs over and above those of other children. Sometimes, one parent is better suited emotionally, financially, and otherwise to meet these unique needs.

Childrens’ Preference

This factor is surprisingly subjective. Generally, the law sets specific milestone ages. For example, according to Minnesota law, children under 16 are too immature to drive a car. But children who reach that age are mature enough to handle that responsibility. In terms of this factor, Hutchinson child custody lawyers can take into account both physical age and a child’s ability “to express an independent, reliable preference.”

Parents’ Fitness

Some parents have issues, such as a substance abuse problem, which prevent them from being good parents at all times. In these cases, judges often restrict access to children and also order the parent to attend some kind of therapy. If the parent overcomes the physical, mental, or other disability, a Hutchinson child custody lawyer usually files a motion to modify the parenting plan.

Parental Preference

Many parents willingly embrace the role of weekend mom or dad. So, “the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child” is a perfectly legitimate inquiry. This factor basically expands on the previous one. Whereas fitness is usually an objective matter, preference is much more subjective.

Prior Domestic Abuse

Whether or not there is a criminal or other court record, pretty much every household in McLeod County is abusive to some extent. At one time or another, nearly everyone gets angry and says or does something they regret. Therefore, this factor involves not so much the presence or absence of domestic abuse, but the extent of that abuse. Obviously, not all anger outbursts have the same impact on the children.

Care History

In many households, the “caregiver” and “breadwinner” roles overlap, as each parent helps out in each area. But that is not always the case. In some families, each parent fills a fairly distinct role. If Mom has always been immersed in work and cared little about attending school plays, it’s hard for her to be a residential parent after a divorce. Sometimes this factor has a great deal of weight, and sometimes it does not.

Childrens’ Emotional Relationships

Divorce always changes family dynamics. So, much like the domestic abuse factor, the issue is how that change affects the children. This factor often comes up more in modification actions than in divorce actions. The Brady Bunch kids seamlessly blended with one another, but that is not always the case.

Consistency for the Children

As far as many Hutchinson child custody lawyers are concerned, this factor may be one of the most significant ones. Many judges are reluctant to allow a parent to move the children out of state, or even out of the county. Since divorce involves so much change, many people feel it’s best to limit the change as much as possible. Then again, children are very resilient and a change of scenery is sometimes best, so this coin definitely has two sides.

Parenting Time Involvement

This amorphous factor often refers to the emotional relationship between a parent and a child. Sometimes the relationship is close, and sometimes it is not. No court order can direct a child to feel an attachment toward a parent. This factor often changes over time, which is why Hutchinson child custody lawyers often rely on it in modification matters.

Intent to Co-Parent

If one parent is obstinate and stiff-necked during the divorce, many McLeod County family court judges assume that behavior will continue. Parents who refuse to acknowledge the important role of the other parent are usually not good residential parent candidates. Such an arrangement sets the stage for future conflicts.

Ability to Co-Parent

Sometimes, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Some parents lack basic problem-solving skills or have a hard time controlling their anger. If this factor changes, and it often does as people mature, a motion to modify may be in order.

Team Up with a Dedicated Attorney

Attorneys and parents must balance a number of factors to come up with a sustainable parenting plan that’s in the best interests of the children. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson child custody lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After hours visits are available.

Six Best Interests Factors Used by Buffalo Family Law Attorneys

Recent legal innovations, like the recognition of same-sex marriages, have changed family law significantly in the past few years. Yet Minnesota’s family code had not been significantly updated since the addition of no-fault divorce.

That changed in January 2016, when a slew of new best interest factors went into effect. Now, almost three years later, both family law courts and Buffalo family law attorneys have had an opportunity to fully digest these changes. So, it’s a good time to look at the leading child custody factors in both initial determinations and modifications.

Children’s Overall Needs

Quite appropriately, the first factor concerns the children’s “physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs, and the effect of the proposed arrangements on the child’s needs and development.”

Every child is different. But in general, most children need consistency and boundaries. Following a divorce, most children need to stay in the same neighborhood, retain the same friends, go to the same school, and retain the same religious habits. In other words, they often need to stay with the parent that obtained custody at the temporary hearing. The old saying that possession is nine points of the law is very appropriate here.

That being said, children need boundaries. The residential parent must be one that tells children to brush their teeth, do their homework, go to bed on time, and so on. The failure to do so could impair the children’s emotional development.

Children’s Special Needs

This factor is a new one. To one extent or another, all children have “special medical, mental health, or educational needs.”

This dynamic is especially important if there was a clear division of parental responsibility during the marriage. In other words, did the family have a “caregiver” spouse and a “breadwinner” spouse? If so, the breadwinner may not understand the details of a special need the way a caregiver spouse understands these things.

Children’s Preference

This factor is not nearly as important as some Buffalo family law attorneys believe it is. For one thing, many children do not want to choose one parent over another one. Moreover, the judge always has the final word. Any preference expressed must be in the children’s best interests.

So, a Wright County judge may consider such opinions “if the court deems the child to be of sufficient ability, age, and maturity to express an independent, reliable preference.” In other words, the judge has almost complete discretion. If warranted by the facts, a judge may discount the preference of a 16-year-old or embrace the preference of a 4-year-old.

Parent’s Physical and Mental Fitness

Some parents have health issues which prevent them from taking care of children. Sometimes, these conditions are self-inflicted, at least to some extent. On that note, the onset or removal of a disability is often the basis of a successful motion to modify.

Parental preference is relevant as well. Some adults are perfectly willing to be weekend parents. Sometimes they express this preference directly. Other times, the expression is indirect. Quite often, one parent faithfully attends choir concerts or soccer games and the other parent seemingly always has something else to do.

Ability to Co-Parent

During initial determinations or modifications, many people hire overly-aggressive Buffalo family law attorneys. These lawyers contest every point and refuse to compromise. This strategy often backfires. Many Wright County judges assume that parents who are combative during court proceedings will be even more combative once court supervision ends. Minnesota law presumes that children benefit from consistent and meaningful contact with both parents. If a parent repeatedly erects roadblocks, that’s usually not a good thing.

So, a good Buffalo family law attorney walks the line. Each parent must have a strong advocate. But each parent must also be willing to work out problems and coexist with the other parent. Problems are inevitable in a co-parenting relationship.

Ability to Meet Future Needs

Obviously, no one has a crystal ball and no one can see the future. However, it is possible to ascertain “the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child’s ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time.”

Most Wright County judges can quickly tell if a parent is putting on an act to obtain a favorable short-term decision. Parents who see the children as trophies, or want custody so the other spouse doesn’t get it, rarely come out on top.

Connect with Experienced Lawyers

Whether the case is resolved by agreement or at trial, all child custody determinations must be in the best interests of the children. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.


Call For A Free Consultation (877) 344-1555Free Consultation

Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (218) 736-9429
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions