“It's not just about you!”
How many times have you heard someone say that? Ordinarily, it's meant to snap people out of a self-centered bubble. But when it comes to your child's custody, it's literally true: it's not just about you. Nor is it just about your spouse, or even just your child.
It can be surprising to think about your child having relationships, but even very small children truly do have relationships with the people around them: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course, siblings. Think about your own such relationships, especially when you were a child. Imagine you had been robbed of the ability to spend time with these other people. Would your life have been different? Undoubtedly. Would it have been poorer? Almost certainly. Now think about what will happen in your child's life if your custody dispute deprives him or her of time to build these precious bonds with family members.
As we've discussed in other recent blog posts, in 2015, Minnesota revised its “best interests” factors in 2015. These factors are what a judge evaluates when making a custody determination. One of the factors in the revised law reads, “the effect of the proposed arrangements on the ongoing relationships between the child and each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child's life.”
This is a clear recognition of important relationships in a child's life beyond those with each parent. How might this particular factor come into play in a custody dispute? A common scenario involves a couple with a child in common, and older children from previous relationships. It's usually (though not always) ideal if parenting time for all the children can be arranged so they can spend time together at their common parent's house. This can start to feel like a game of Custody Tetris! But the alternative could be half-siblings growing up missing the relationship they once had, or worse still, never getting to develop much of a relationship at all.
Similarly, grandparents can be an essential source of stability for children. A judge may look more favorably on a proposed custody arrangement that allows children regular access to a beloved grandparent's love and support. It's a lot of work to make sure that children get to spend time with the close relatives who are important to them, but it's worth it.
If you're a parent, your child unquestionably needs time with you. But don't forget there are other people your child needs, as well. Demonstrating your recognition of this fact, that you recognize “it's not just about you” will help your judge understand that you're willing to put your child's needs first.
To learn more about Minnesota custody issues, contact us for a consultation, or review some of our other blog posts on child custody, including: