Child Custody / Parenting Plans
Making sure children’s best interests are served
The most heart-wrenching aspect of any divorce involves the decisions regarding the children. In a perfect world, you and your spouse would craft
a parenting plan in your children’s best interest. Regrettably, this is often difficult if not impossible to do on your own. The family law system has a
process to assist the court in making these difficult decisions if the parties are unable to do so.
The family law attorneys at the Minneapolis, MN law offices of Katz & Manka, Ltd. have been assisting clients in assuring that the best interests of
children are the focus of marriages that are dissolving.
Two types of custody - legal and physical
• Legal custody - the right to determine the child's upbringing, including education, healthcare and religious training. There can be sole or joint
• Physical custody and residence - the routine daily care and control, where the child is living and who makes daily decisions as to the child's
In addition, you need to know two more terms:
• Custodial parent or custodian - the person who has physical custody of the child at any particular time.
• Joint physical custody - the routine daily care and control of the child and residence is structured between the parents.
A parenting plan is literally that - a plan agreed to by the parties as to the roles and responsibilities of the divorcing parties in the care of their
children. The attorneys at Katz, Manka, Ltd. will assist you in crafting a parenting plan. We have experience finding creative ways to construct plans
that define the decision-making parental roles regarding:
• Religious upbringing
• Residential schedule
• Responsibility for day-to-day decisions
• A schedule dividing holiday and vacation time
Our plans are designed to head off future disputes before they happen.
How the court decides custody if you and your spouse cannot agree
If you and your spouse cannot decide on an appropriate parenting plan, your children's future will be determined in part by a judge or referee.
Custody/parenting time evaluations
The court will appoint a neutral third party to conduct a custody or parenting time evaluation. The contesting parties always have the option of
hiring an independent evaluator, typically a child psychologist. The evaluator does a thorough investigation through observation and interviews with
the parties, possibly the children, and third parties (friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, daycare providers, teachers, counselors and
healthcare providers) as appropriate or requested by the parties. They then meet with the parties and present their recommendations. If the parties
are unable to agree on the recommendations, a written report is issued as part of the record of the divorce proceedings.
Additional assistance - parenting time expeditors and parenting consultants
One professional, a parenting time expeditor, is legislated in Minnesota to assist you and your children. Additionally, parenting consultants can help
in making decisions involving minor children.
Parenting time expeditors - resolve parenting time disputes by enforcing, interpreting, clarifying and addressing circumstances not specifically
addressed by an existing parenting time order. If appropriate, they determine whether the existing parenting time order has been violated.
Parenting consultants - are similar to expeditors, but their duties are defined by the parties and included in a parenting consultant agreement and
order. These can be broader than an expeditor's, including authority to determine disputed custody issues, recommend therapy for a child or a
party and even the authority to recommend a change in the parenting time plan.
The court order appointing either of these professionals will provide that when a dispute arises the professional will either meet or speak with the
parties about the dispute and will attempt to mediate an agreement between the parents. If an agreement cannot be reached, the professional will
make an immediate decision, in writing, summarizing his or her decision. That decision is binding, unless either parent requests the court reach a
Guardians ad litem
In all matters of marriage dissolution or legal separation where custody or parenting time is at issue, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to
represent the children. This appointment may be made:
• During the proceeding before a final custody or parenting time decision is reached
• At the conclusion of the litigation
• As part of later post-decree litigation
A guardian is not an attorney for the child, but rather a representative for the child’s best interests. Many are not attorneys. A guardian must be
appointed where it is alleged that a parent has harmed a child or the child is at risk of being harmed. Typically, if a guardian is appointed while a
custody evaluation is being conducted. The guardian will issue a written report addressing the best interest factors and making his or her own
recommendation as to custody and parenting time.
Modification of custody/parenting time
Finally, a court can be petitioned to modify custody. However, requests to change physical custody cannot be made within the first year after the
initial establishment of an order or parenting plan and are subject to strict rules even after that. Modification of physical custody arises from time to
time when one parent needs to move to another state. If such requests are contested, the court must determine the children's best interests. The
person seeking the move has the burden of proving the move is in the children's best interests.
There is nothing more important in the break-up of a marriage than assuring that the interests of the children involved are at the top of the priority
list. Katz & Manka, Ltd. has the experience with all of the procedures and people involved in the decision-making processes used to decide custody.
Let us use our knowledge and skill to protect your family's most treasured assets - your children.