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The Importance of Temporary Custody in Minnesota

In cases where the issue of custody is contested, there is often an initial hearing where the Court decides issues of custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, occupancy of the homestead, etc. on a temporary basis, pending issuance of the final Judgment & Decree or Divorce - which can be several months or even a year or more in contested custody cases.

The general rule is that no testimony is taken at the temporary relief hearing. Rather, the Court decides the issues of temporary custody, etc., on the basis of parties’ respective motions and affidavits, and on the arguments of counsel made at the hearing. It is extremely important to take the time at this stage to get affidavits and documentation from all those who have relevant knowledge.

Legally, the fact that one party or the other is granted temporary custody has no bearing on which party should ultimately be awarded permanent custody in the final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. However, it is important to understand that the temporary custody order represents the Court’s best initial guess as to which parent is the more suitable custodian, and it sets the tone for subsequent the proceedings.

Temporary orders may be modified at any time during the pendency of the proceedings. However, in practice, the Court will not seriously consider a motion to modify temporary custody unless there has been a demonstrable change of circumstances since the prior order. The most common reason for modification of a temporary order is the issuance of the custody evaluator’s report.

NOTE WELL: If you intend to seek custody, it is important that at the time of separation you do not move out and leave the children in the care of the other party in the marital home. If you do so, the other parent will certainly argue that he or she should be awarded temporary custody of the children simply to maintain continuity and stability for the children.


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When custody is in dispute, a Minnesota court issues a custody order that is in the "best interests of the child." Joint custody will only be awarded if parents have shown the court that they are willing and able to cooperate. A court also examines several factors with the child's welfare in mind. They include (1) the child's preference, (2) each parent's health, (3) the child's health and whether any special needs exist, (4) each parent's relationship with the child, (5) which parent has been the child's primary caretaker, (6) each parent's ability to provide a stable environment for the child, (7) any history of domestic violence or child abuse and (8) any allegations of abuse.
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