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Minnesota Locale Restrictions

Minnesota Locale Restrictions

/ Family Law

It’s not common that, without an agreement of the parents, a court grants custody to a parent based on the condition that the parent resides in Minnesota. It happens, but not very often. You might imagine a situation in which a parent clearly shows the court that it’s in the child’s best interests that the parent is granted custody, but at the same time, it’s clear to the court that the child’s presence in Minnesota is fundamental to the child’s wellbeing. So fundamental, that it trumps the other factors the court considers when determining custody. Perhaps the child has lived in Minnesota for the child’s entire life, all the child’s friends and family live in the state (and the child is deeply attached to these people and relies heavily on them for stability and support), the child has important employment, education, sports and extracurricular activity, and other opportunities in Minnesota, etc. Perhaps the child receives specialized and vital medical or mental health care in Minnesota.

More commonly, parents will agree that one parent will be granted custody as long as the parent remains in Minnesota. The non-custodial parent might agree to this if his or her primary concern is that the other will eventually move and permanently damage the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the child. Perhaps the custodial parent’s family all reside in Florida, or the parent has a great career advancement opportunity from a pending job offer in Massachusetts, etc. The non-custodial parent in such a situation might anticipate that the other parent will move, and due to the child’s educational responsibilities, the non-custodial parent could only hope to exercise a few months of visitation each year during the summer.

Whenever custody is granted to a parent with the condition that the parent remains in Minnesota, whether by the court’s decision after a contested trial or by the parents’ agreement, this is known as a “locale restriction.” A locale restriction has important implications for a custodial parent’s future requests to move out of state; implications which differ from a typical request to move out of state.

Typical Requests to Move out of State

In a common case, when a custodial parent wants to move out of Minnesota, the request is governed by Minnesota Statute section 518.175 subd. 3. This statute requires the court to consider a non-exhaustive list of eight factors:

1. the nature, quality, extent of involvement, and duration of the child’s relationship with the person proposing to relocate and with the nonrelocating person, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life;

2. the age, developmental stage, needs of the child, and the likely impact the relocation will have on the child’s physical, educational, and emotional development, taking into consideration special needs of the child;

3. the feasibility of preserving the relationship between the nonrelocating person and the child through suitable parenting time arrangements, considering the logistics and financial circumstances of the parties;

4. the child’s preference, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child;

5. whether there is an established pattern of conduct of the person seeking the relocation either to promote or thwart the relationship of the child and the nonrelocating person;

6. whether the relocation of the child will enhance the general quality of the life for both the custodial parent seeking the relocation and the child including, but not limited to, financial or emotional benefit or educational opportunity;

7. the reasons of each person for seeking or opposing the relocation; and

8. the effect on the safety and welfare of the child, or of the parent requesting to move the child’s residence, of domestic abuse, as defined in section 518B.01.

Many of these factors mirror the traditional Minnesota best interests factors which are considered by the court in many custody and parenting time matters, including the initial custodial determination and modifications of custody and parenting time. Some, however, are carefully structured to address the specific issues that arise when a custodial parent moves out of state.

Requests to Move out of State When Custody is Subject to a Locale Restriction

However, when a parent seeks to move out of Minnesota when a locale restriction is present in the judgment, a different standard applies.

This issue was considered by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Goldman v. Greenwood. In that case, the mother, who had sole physical custody of the parties’ child, sought to move to New York. Backing up a bit, the court previously denied the mother’s request to move with the child to Boston during the parties’ divorce roughly seven years prior, but still granted her custody – contingent on her remaining in Minnesota. When the mother brought a motion to move with the child to New York, the Minnesota Supreme Court was confronted with the issue of which standard to apply to the request; whether the factors listed in Minn. Stat. § 518.175 (listed above), or something else.

The Goldman Court determined that Minn. Stat. § 518.175 does not apply when a locale restriction is present. Instead, the standard in Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d) applies, which is the standard applied in custody modification cases. Why is this important? Because 518.18(d) is a heightened standard; a much more difficult hurdle to overcome. In addition to proving that the move is in the child’s best interests, the parent must also prove that “the child’s present environment endangers the child’s physical or emotional health or impairs the child’s emotional development and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.”

In other words, the Goldman Court made out-of-state moves much more difficult for custodial parents when the parent’s custodial status is subject to a locale restriction. It did so by requiring the parent to prove that not moving out of Minnesota endangers the child, in addition to proving that the move is in the child’s best interests.

Conclusion

A motion to move out of state is complicated and requires specialized family law expertise, especially in cases involving a locale restriction. Thus, having an attorney to assist you with these issues is essential. To speak with an attorney who can help with this type of case, or other family law cases, call the SW&L family law team at 701-297-2890 or email us at info@swlattorneys.com.

The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely on the information on this website as legal advice. Please refer to the full disclaimer here.

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