Legal Memorandum: Child Custody Proceedings in MN

Issue: Is there a fixed time after which disputes between parties to a dissolution proceeding regarding custody and visitation of their children must end?

Area of Law: Family Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Family court jurisdiction; Custody Proceedings; Physical or mental condition evaluation
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 367 N.W.2d 518; 678 N.W.2d 68; 408 N.W.2d 835
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 1
Date: 09/01/2011

Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 1 references the family court’s authority to grant parenting time during the entirety of the subject child’s minority.  The statute does not, however, explicitly state that the court’s jurisdiction over custody matters necessarily terminates upon the child’s eighteenth birthday.  To the contrary, case law provides that “‘domestic relationships, by their nature, continue under the jurisdiction of the [family] court virtually throughout the lives of the parties.'”  Katz v. Katz, 408 N.W.2d 835, 838 (Minn. 1987) (quoting Angelos v. Angelos, 367 N.W.2d 518, 519 (Minn. 1985)).  “‘Accordingly, the legislature specifically authorized modification, in cases of changed circumstances, of those provisions of divorce decrees affecting custody, visitation, maintenance, and support,'” and “this authority . . . is unaffected by a change in status such as that from minority to majority.”  Id. at 838.  Although this statement from Katz provides support for continuing, post-“majority” family court jurisdiction over custody matters, note that Katz itself is a child support case.

Another Minnesota case, while also dealing with child support modification, further supports ongoing family court jurisdiction in custody proceedings.  In State ex rel. Jarvela v. Burke, 678 N.W.2d 68, 72 (Minn. Ct. App. 2004), the appellant father asserted that the mother of a mentally and physically disabled child lacked standing to bring a motion to modify his child support obligation because her custodial rights terminated upon the child’s eighteenth birthday.  The court observed that the father was able to cite no authority […]

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