Best Interest Standard

In Minnesota, when a judge is forced to decide which parent will be awarded custody of a child, the judge must decide whether it will be in the child’s best interest to be in the custody of the mother, or the father.  To make this decision the judge is required to look at all of the evidence presented that relates to what are known as the best interest factors, which I have listed below.   The evidence will be presented by each parent through testimony, the testimony of any person either parent calls as a witness and by the testimony of any Guardian Ad Litem or Custody Evaluator who submitted a report for the court.   

Read through the 13 best interest factors listed below and think about how each of them relates to your situation.  For example, think about how stable your living situation has been.  Have you lived and worked in the same place for a long time?  Or have you moved around alot from house to house and job to job?  Where do your relatives live and how often does your child interact with them?  If the other parent were awarded custody, would that disrupt established relationships between your child and your other relatives?  How well is your child doing in school?  If the other parent were awarded custody would that force the child to leave a school where he/she has made many friends and gets good grades?  Does either parent suffer from any sort of mental health or physical condition that would potentially endanger the child if he/she were awarded custody? 

By honestly thinking about your situation and how it applies to each of these factors, you can probably come up with a pretty good idea of which parent would be awarded custody if the judge is forced to decide.    

 Best Interest Factors

  1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to custody;
  2. The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is old enough to express a preference;
  3. The child’s primary caretaker;
  4. The intimacy of the relationship between each parent and the child;
  5. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with a parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
  6. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community;
  7. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  8. The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
  9. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  10. The capacity and disposition of the parties to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion or creed;
  11. The child’s cultural background;
  12. The effect of abuse on the child where the domestic abuse occurred between the parents or between a parent and another individual; and
  13. The disposition of each parent to encourage ad permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child, except in cases where a finding of domestic abuse has been made.