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Like many states, Minnesota distinguishes between legal and physical custody when parents get divorced. Parents can share both legal custody, the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf, and physical custody, the daily care of the child at each residence. Sometimes, the court will award sole legal or sole physical custody. 

Review the factors that affect child custody decisions in Minnesota. 

Factors for sole physical custody

When both parents request sole physical custody, Minnesota law requires judges to consider these 13 factors: 

  • The child’s wishes, depending on his or her age 
  • The status of the child’s current relationship with each parent 
  • Who primarily cares for the child 
  • Each parent’s wishes 
  • How well-adjusted the child currently is to community, school and home 
  • Whether either parent has a history of domestic abuse 
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to foster a relationship with the other parent, except in cases involving domestic abuse 
  • The cultural background of the child 
  • Whether each parent will love, care for, and educate the child as well as support his or her cultural and religious background where applicable 
  • The physical and mental health of all parties, though the judge cannot award sole custody to one parent because the other parent has a disability unless it affects his or her ability to care for the child 
  • The stability of the child’s current home environment 
  • The stability of each parent’s proposed home 

Factors for joint physical custody

When either parent asks the court for joint custody, the judge must also consider: 

  • History of domestic abuse in the marital relationship 
  • Possible negative effects on the child that would result from either parent having sole custody 
  • The ability of the parents to resolve disputes 
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate with one another 

When one parent has sole custody, the court usually awards the other parent visitation.