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Parenting Plans in Minnesota

As of January 1st, 2001, Minnesota litigants have had the option of stipulating to a "Parenting Plan" in lieu of a traditional custody award. A major goal of this legislation was to help parents avoid getting bogged down in arguments over the custody label. Unfortunately, the legislation hasn’t entirely lived up to its promise. The statute still requires custody labels, and although this is supposedly only for purposes of enforcement in other states, it remains a source of conflict.

Nevertheless, the Parenting Plan legislation does make possible two good options not previously available to parties:

First, it allows parties to stipulate to a "best interest of the child" standard for purposes of any future motions to modify parenting time. This is in lieu of the "endangerment" standard which would otherwise apply. Prior to enactment of the Parenting Plan legislation, parents were not even free to stipulate to a standard other than endangerment for future modification motions. This resulted in many custody conflicts even where both parties agreed that one or the other should have custody at present, because the prospective non-custodial parent didn’t want to be in a position of having to prove endangerment in order to modify custody in the future.

Second, it allows parties to stipulate to a "best interest of the child" standard for purposes of any future motion to move the children’s residence out of state. Without such a stipulation, the non-custodial parent would have to prove either that the move would endanger the children, or that the move is only intended to interfere with parenting time, in order to prevent the move.

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Minnesota courts look at many factors in deciding spousal support amounts. A spouse may be entitled to maintenance if he or she cannot support himself or herself despite any marital property received after distribution. Financial resources, employment, education and the personal circumstances of each spouse are considered. A court examines several factors to determine if maintenance is appropriate, and if so, how much and for how long. They include (1) the duration of the marriage, (2) the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, (3) each spouse's age and health, (4) each spouse's assets, income or ability to earn income, (5) the time needed for the requesting spouse to receive training or education and obtain sufficient employment in order to support himself or herself and (6) the owing spouse's ability to pay. A court can order temporary support while the divorce is pending. Most maintenance is ordered for a specific length of time. Once maintenance is ordered, it can be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.
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