The statement posed in this headline is a common assumption that both mothers and fathers have in the early stages of divorce and/or custody disputes. It arises from outdated gender roles and stereotypes that suggest mothers are always most suitable to be a child’s primary caregiver.
However, Minnesota’s child custody laws (and those of many other states) now reflect the modern shift in parenting beliefs and behaviors. Currently, Minnesota statutes do not allow the courts to make presumptions in favor of sole vs. joint custody, or in favor of mothers over fathers, and the courts must consider a number of “best interest” factors before making the custody determination. In other words, you should not assume that a mother will get sole custody simply because she is the mother.
Below are some other assumptions you should not make as you navigate the child custody process in Minnesota.
“I don’t have any control over the child custody process.”
Both a mother’s and a father’s personal behavior has a serious impact (both positive and negative) on what type of custody arrangement is ultimately ordered. If you are involved in your child’s life, show interest in maintaining a relationship with your child, and if you are a safe and loving caregiver, then that will have a positive effect on the type of custody and the amount of parenting time you will enjoy.
Additionally, you do not have to leave custody determinations in the hands of the court. You can work with the other parent to create your own parenting plan. With few exceptions, the courts allow–and even encourage–parents to pursue out-of-court resolutions, which can be more amicable and mutually agreeable. Typically parties are much happier with custody arrangements that they had a hand in creating, rather than those thrust upon them.
“Custody disputes are unavoidably contentious.”
Custody disputes are very difficult and emotional; there is no doubt about that. However, they don’t have to be ugly, bitter battles. In fact, parents should generally strive to avoid falling into this trap because hostility betwen parents can be damaging to children.
Working together, keeping the focus on your child’s emotional well-being, and coming to terms with the fact that it is typically in a child’s best interests to spend meaningful time with both parents can help keep the peace.
“I have to do this alone.”
You are not alone in this difficult process. Whether you go through mediation or litigation, you can resolve child custody matters with an attorney who will stand by you and provide critical guidance, support, and advice.