Legal Memorandum: Family and Probate Court's Concurrent Jurisdiction

Issue: May the Family Court and Probate Court exercise concurrent jurisdiction in Minnesota?

Area of Law: Family Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Concurrent jurisdiction; Family Court and Probate Court; Guardianship matters
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 40 N.W.2d 881; 63 N.W.2d 576; 63 N.W.2d 573; 30 Minn. 277
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 524.5-107(a), § 524.1-303(b), § 484.78, § 484.01, § 484.64, subds. 1, 2, § 484.012
Date: 09/01/2011

See generally 2 Children & the Law: Rights & Obligations § 7:3 (2010).  The probate court may exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the family court.  In Petition of Sherman, 241 Minn. 447, 63 N.W.2d 573 (1954),*FN1 for example, the court acknowledged that, while in ordinary cases the probate court may have exclusive jurisdiction over guardianship matters, there may “be cases where the district court would have concurrent jurisdiction with the probate court, where they involve some additional equitable feature, . . . which of itself, independent of the administration or guardianship, would be sufficient ground for the interference of a court of equity.”  Id. at 450-51, 63 N.W.2d at 576 (quoting State ex rel. Martin v. Ueland, 30 Minn. 277, 281, 15 N.W. 245, 246 (1883)).  Per Sherman, issues surrounding the custody of a child constitute an exercise of equity jurisdiction.  Id. at 451, 63 N.W.2d 576; see also State ex rel. Gravelle v. Rensch, 230 Minn. 160, 164, 40 N.W.2d 881, 883 (1950) (explaining that guardianship proceedings constitute no impediment to the exercise by the district court of its equity powers in suits involving the custody of children). 

Alternatively, the probate court could transfer the case to the family court.  The Minnesota Probate Code specifically provides that

[f]ollowing the appointment of a guardian or conservator or entry of another protective order, the court making the appointment or entering the order may transfer […]

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