JOINT CUSTODY AND PARENTING TIME IN A DIVORCE
March 14, 2009
VISITATION AND PARENTING TIME
Today we no longer call a father’s time with his children “visitation”. We call it “parenting time”.
A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF JOINT CUSTODY
James Cook died on February 21, 2009 at the age of 85. He is considered to be the founding father of joint custody laws in the United States. In the 1970’s, Cook was going through a bitter divorce. He asked for joint custody of his son, but was denied because the law favored giving custody of the children to the mother. He ultimately lost his battle for custody, but lobbied extensively for the joint custody laws that we enjoy today. http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-james-cook12-2009mar12,0,1547708.story
HOW MINNESOTA FAMILY COURTS TEND TO VIEW JOINT CUSTODY
There is still a strong presumption that the mother is the primary caretaker of young children. This is not codified in anywhere in the law, but is certainly present in the results of disputed custody cases. Consider that in disputed custody cases, both parents will typically present themselves as being primary caretakers of the children. In such cases, Courts routinely rely on the impressions of custody evaluators or guardians ad litem to provide investigative feedback as to which parent served as primary caretaker (along with other factors which may not be as gender-skewed). Then, if the case does not resolve itself after a custody evaluation, the Court (at least in Minnesota), will accept the custody evaluation as evidence in the case, and will take testimony to determine who is, in fact, the primary caretaker of the children. Any bias by any professional involved in the case may result in a result that is gender-biased against the father–even though the law is gender neutral.
WHAT EXPERIENCE TEACHES US ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY
In my experience, these biases are best resolved by carefully establishing through testimony and documentary evidence that my client performs all or many of all the tasks associated with being a primary caretaker. It is especially helpful if this evidence is objective. For example, if my client took the children to every doctor and dentist visit, the care provider notes will indicate it. If my client attended all student conferences, there will be a record of it. If my client signs off on all the children’s homework, there is evidence. If my client does all the transportation to and from daycare or extracurricular activities, there may be no documentary evidence of it, but there is probably some testimonial evidence of it.
I would not risk my client’s relationship with his children based on the ideal of the unbiased judiciary.
Moore Family Law, P.A.
3350 Annapolis Lane North, Suite C
Plymouth, MN 55447