Types of Child Custody in Minnesota
Under Minnesota law, there are two types of child custody.
- "Legal custody" refers to the right to make decisions about how to raise the child, including decisions about education, health care, and religious training.
- "Physical Custody" refers to the right to make decisions about the routine day-to-day activities of the child and where the child lives.
Depending on several factors, parents may share custody, which is often called "joint"
physical and/or legal custody. Or, one of them may have "sole"
physical and/or legal custody. NOTE
: The custody arrangement could be different for each child in a family.
"Joint legal custody"
means that both parents share the responsibility for making decisions regarding how to raise the child, including the right to participate in major decisions about the child's 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 both of the parents.
Generally, in order to have your child custody issues decided by a judge in Minnesota, the child must have lived in Minnesota with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six (6) consecutive months (180 days) before starting the court process. There are exceptions for emergency situations.
If you live in Minnesota but your child lives with the other parent in another state, your case may be more complicated. You can read the law on "interstate custody"
online at MN Statutes Ch. 518D
. You should talk with a lawyer
about where you may be able to file your custody case or modify an existing custody order.
Emergency Custody Issue
Emergency "ex parte"
actions involve one party asking the court for a hearing and/or order without giving advance notice of their request to all other parties involved in the case. The party asking the court to hear a case on an emergency ex parte basis is required to follow several laws and Court Rules, including but not limited to:
The MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish
forms to ask the court to hear a custody matter on an emergency ex parte basis. You might find sample forms at your local law library
, but we strongly encourage you to talk to a lawyer
about your case.
Going to court without a lawyer?
You may represent yourself in court
, but we strongly encourage you to get legal advice from an attorney
, especially if the parties do not agree on custody, parenting time, or child support. NOTE:
If you feel threatened
by or unsafe
with the other party, you may want to get legal advice
or help from an advocate
before going to court.
The State of Minnesota has several laws about child custody and parenting time. If you choose to go to court without a lawyer, you are responsible for knowing the laws and rules of court (see Rules and Laws tab). Be aware that each court in Minnesota may have local rules and procedures for custody cases for that particular court. Contact your local Court Administration
about procedures in your court.
Where you go for court will depend on the type of case you have that involves child custody, so if it's a divorce case, you may go to Family Court, but if it's a child protection case, you may go to Juvenile Court. Some courts have only one courthouse, others have several courthouse locations. Look in the Minnesota Courthouse Directory
for contact information.
Parenting Education Class
When parents dispute custody or parenting time
(visitation) in court, the law in MN Statutes § 518.157 requires
that the parents attend a parenting education class.
Depending on the circumstance, the judge may also order that the children attend a class.
The District Courts listed below describe their approved parenting education classes on their websites:
For other courts, please contact your Court Administration
to learn about their approved classes.
Fees and Costs
It costs money to handle custody disputes in court. There are court fees, possible attorneys fees, and other costs. If you are a person with a low income or you receive public assistance, you may qualify for a fee waiver or reduced court fees