Child Custody in Minnesota: An Overview of the Best Interests of the Child Standard

In Minnesota, child custody determinations are made by determining what is best for the child. Courts are focused on protecting a child’s safety and well-being, so parental desires will always be a secondary consideration. Here, our Mankato child custody attorneys provide an overview of the factors that Minnesota family law judges use to determine what is in the best interests of the child.


Under Minnesota law (MN Statutes Sec. 518.17), there are 12 different factors that courts must consider when determining what type of custody & visitation arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Specifically, these factors are as follows:

  • Child’s Physical and Emotional Needs: First and foremost, Minnesota courts must consider a child’s physical safety and psychological well-being. The proper custody arrangement must be best for the child given the totality of the circumstances.
  • Unique Medical/Educational Requirements: Courts will weigh any unique medical or educational needs that the child has. For example, if a child needs special education services, that will be a factor.
  • Child Preference (If Age Appropriate): When children are deemed both old enough and mature enough to do so, they may be permitted to give input on their own preference for custody. To be clear, though their input is important, even teenage children do not necessarily get the final say.
  • Any History of Abuse/Neglect: If there is a history of child abuse, domestic violence, or parental neglect, Minnesota courts will take that issue very seriously.
  • Parental Health Issues: Parental health matters. If a parent has a serious health problem, courts must consider the potential effect on the child.
  • Each Parent’s Relationship With the Child: Courts will also give consideration to each parent’s developed relationships with the child. A parent that has developed a strong, close relationship with a child is more likely to be awarded primary physical custody.
  • Parental Fitness: Parental fitness matters in a general sense. If a parent is deemed unfit or unwilling to provide the child a stable, healthy environment, it will impact their ability to obtain custody rights.
  • Effect on Child’s Social Development: Courts must consider a custody/visitation arrangement impact on a child’s social development. Stability matters. Courts are reluctant to take school-age children out of a place where they are comfortable.
  • Effect on Child’s Relationships: The impact that a custody arrangement will have on all of a child’s important relationships—from siblings to grandparents—must be considered.
  • Maximizing Parenting Time: Minnesota public policy emphasizes that it is best for a child to have a positive relationship with both of their parents.
  • Willingness of Parents to Make Visitation Work: If a parent is willing to help facilitate visitation, they are more likely to be granted primary physical custody.
  • Willingness of Parents to Cooperate: Courts will consider each parent’s willingness and ability to cooperate with each other—parental cooperation is considered to be inherently beneficial for a child.


At Kohlmeyer Hagen, Law Office Chtd., our family law attorneys have many years of experience handling child custody cases. We will protect your parental rights and help you obtain a favorable outcome in your child custody case. For a free initial consultation, contact us today. From our law office in Mankato, we represent parents and legal guardians throughout Southern Minnesota, including Rochester.

Put Our Solutions On Your Case Put Our Solutions On Your Case Put Our Solutions On Your CasePut Our Solutions On Your CasePut Our Solutions On Your CasePut Our Solutions On Your Case