Minnesota, being the cold state that it is, prompts many daydreams about moving to a warmer climate.  However, if you are the mother of a minor child and not married to the child’s father, you should consult with a family attorney before packing your bags, even though you may have sole custody.

Occasionally, we hear discouraged fathers lament that Minnesota courts favor mothers when it comes to decisions about child custody, before they have had an opportunity to know about their rights.  Family law attorneys know that Minn. Stat. Sec. 257.541, subd. 1 (2015) automatically grants sole legal and sole physical custody to a mother if she was not married to the child’s father when the child was born or conceived.  It is up to the child’s father to seek adjudication of paternity through the court and include a request to establish custody and parenting time.  In the alternative, if the father signed a Recognition of Parentage with the child’s mother before a notary public, swearing that they are both the child’s biological parents, and properly filed it with the Minnesota Department of Health, the father can seek custody and parenting time with their child by serving and filing the appropriate petition. 

There are many fathers who successfully obtain custody of their children because it is in their children’s best interests.  Society’s opinion of the importance of fathers has significantly changed over the years.  The sharing of parental duties is more equal than ever before, defeating the antiquated assumptions that children should always be with their mothers, rather than with their fathers, or with both parents in a joint parenting time arrangement.  At Wilson Law Group, we have advocated for quite a few dedicated dads to obtain custody of their children, and/or significant or equal parenting time.  We are proud to fight for fathers’ rights. 

Sometimes we hear unmarried mothers say that they want to keep sole custody of their children because they want to be able to move out of Minnesota with the child in the future.  This is another assumption that we have to clarify.  Yes, it is true that an unmarried mother has sole custody, and if the child’s father never files a petition with the court seeking to establish his rights to custody or parenting time, a mother could move out of state.  However, if the child’s father has been granted court ordered parenting time-even just once a week for four hours-a mother with sole custody cannot move the child’s residence out of state without the father’s consent or a court order.  The Court, when considering a move out of state, must look at what is in the child’s best interests, not what is convenient or beneficial to the parent.  The numerous factors listed in Minn. Stat. 518.175, subd. 3 (2015) may give a parent pause before seeking a motion for relocation, as the burden for the parent requesting the move is quite high.  There is an exception when domestic abuse is involved, which shifts the burden of proof.  The Court must first make a finding that the person requesting permission to move has been a victim of domestic abuse by the other parent.  In that situation, the burden of proof is upon the parent opposing the move.

Although a move out of state may not be on the parent’s mind at the time he or she is consulting with an attorney about parental rights, it’s important to have this conversation at the outset of a case, especially if either parent was not born in the United States, and there are concerns about the parent’s ability to legally reside in the U.S.   

If you would like more information about establishing parental rights or moving your child’s residence, please contact Wilson Law Group at 612-436-7100 for a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.