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What if We, as The Parents, Can’t Come to An Agreement on Custody? Do We Have to Go to Court to Solve It?

Van Valkenburg Law May 5, 2022

Before the need for an actual trial, there are steps encouraged to support parents in reaching an agreement on custody. The first step that can be taken if parents cannot agree may be to have a Social Early Neutral Evaluation. This is a form of mediation. This evaluation ideally would be conducted with two professionals, one of each sex. The evaluators hear each parent’s positions on what is best for the child, look into the history of the relationship, and give feedback on what the professionals believe is in the children’s best interest. Parents can accept the recommendation at that juncture or continue to negotiate what they feel is best for the child. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, they may then participate in a custody evaluation. This is typically conducted with one professional who evaluates the best interest factors set out in the statute. This evaluation normally takes three to six months. After concluding the evaluation, a custody evaluator will issue a report. At that point, if one or both parents do not accept the recommendations from the evaluation or find a compromise within that, the issues are presented to the court for a decision.

Should We Try and Workout Our Contested Custody Arrangement Through Mediation Before Taking the Matter Into Court?

Attempting to resolve the issue outside of the court system is always the best option. Through mediation, each parent may be able to hear and address the concerns of the other parent more effectively and reach a resolution with that greater insight. Evaluative mediation is also an option and involves an evaluative mediator giving feedback on what they believe will be the child’s best interest and what they think a judge may do with the issues presented. If you are unable to resolve matters through mediation, you may bring the matter to a trial before a judge. You must remember the Judge does not know your child, you or the other party. Obviously, a trial is meant to give the court such insight but there is limited time to do so. You are also constrained by the rules of evidence.

If Both Parents Have Joint Legal Custody and They Disagree About Decisions Related to The Child’s Upbringing as The Child Ages, Where Do You Go from There? What Needs to Be Done if You Just Simply Can’t Agree Years Into an Arrangement?

In establishing joint legal custody, it is presumed parents are able to agree on the raising of the child. If there is concern, they may address how they will make decisions in the future and how contested matters will be settled. One option is to bring an issue to mediation. A mediator is not someone who makes the final decision. They are there to help parents make a decision together. The parents could also appoint a parenting consultant. A parenting consultant is a professional with whom the parties would enter into a contract and set out what they are asking the parenting consultant to do. If, for example, it was a school choice, each parent would let the parenting consultant know their position, and it is then up to the parenting consultant to decide that issue based on their research. The parenting consultant can then issue a report that may become the decision. If one parent still does not accept that decision they may seek a decision from the court.

If medical decisions need to be made and the parents are unable to decide together, they could turn it over to a professional such as the treating physician. Based upon the circumstances of the decision, a parenting consultant may also discuss the topic with the relevant professionals in reaching its decision.

What Rights Does a Birth Father Have in Minnesota if Parents Are Unwed?

Immediately upon the child being born, the mother has sole legal and physical custody. Once the father signs a Recognition of Parentage at the hospital, that is no longer the case. A birth father is best to participate in the child’s birth, register with the father’s registry, and/or be actively involved in pre-birth matters and immediately after. If a mother is not cooperating, the best thing you can do is bring a paternity action and get your rights established.

For more information on Child Custody & Parenting Time In Minnesota, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling today.