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Joint custody more common in child custody cases

Minnesota fathers who get a divorce or who were never married to the mother of their children are much more likely to get joint custody than they might have decades ago. In 1980, sole custody went to mothers 80% of the time. In 2008, this happened just 42% of the time.

There are actually two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody is usually shared since it allows parents to determine what a child's religion, education and medical care will be like. Physical or residential custody refers to where the child lives. Even in cases in which parents share custody, this may not be equal for logistical reasons, and mothers are still generally favored. However, from 1980 to 2008, situations involving equal physical custody went from 5% to 27%. Situations in which custody was shared but the child spent more time at one parent's house than the other went from 3% to 18%.

Since 1980, more mothers are working outside the home and more fathers are encouraged to spend time with their children. This has been one contributor to the change in family law judges' attitudes toward custody. Parents are also more likely to work out their differences and reach a resolution in mediation instead of going to court. In general, unwed fathers have the same rights as divorced fathers.

When negotiating an agreement about child custody and visitation, parents may want to stay focused on the best interests of the child. This is the criteria that a judge would use. If parents cannot reach an agreement and have to go to litigation, a parent who is seeking custody may want to discuss strategies with an attorney. For example, parents who are able to demonstrate that they have been the main caregivers are more likely to be granted custody.

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