Handing control of your child’s upbringing to Court ought to be a chilling thought. In order to become a Judge, one requires no credentials in child development or parenting. In spite of this, Judges can make parenting decisions when parents can’t agree. Minnesota law gives authority to Judges to make decisions about a child’s residence, upbringing, education, health care and religious training. Minn. Stat. §518.17 subd. 3; Minn. Stat. § 518.003 subd. 3.
Parenting is an enormous responsibility. When Darth Vader famously admitted paternity by uttering: “Luke, I am your father” it’s unlikely the Sith Lord seriously contemplated everything that parenting entails. The Star Wars saga offers little evidence of Darth undertaking the responsibilities of meeting his children’s needs – in spite of having unlimited power over the galaxy.
Luckily, we live in a world where Minnesota lawmakers gave their Judges some help in understanding children’s needs. The help comes in the form of the ‘best interest factors’, which lawmakers put in writing at Minnesota Statute §518.17 subd. 1. Judges are required to look at these factors when makings decisions that affect kids. Novak v. Novak, 446 N.W.2d 422, 424 (Minn. App. 1989).
Unlike Darth Vader’s use of power and control to make decisions, Judges have the ability to weigh and consider the best interest factors and make informed decisions about a child’s upbringing. An example of this arose recently in a Minnesota Court where parents couldn’t agree whether to vaccinate their children.
In coming to a decision, the Judge opined, based personal experience, that vaccinations were ‘helpful and protective”, and the children should therefore be vaccinated. The Judge declined to consider the ‘best interest factors’ and instead relied on personal experience. The Judge’s decision was later reversed by the Court of Appeals, because the Judge failed to apply the law by weighing and considering the children’s best interests.
Judges are not granted authority based on their experience or qualifications as parents; their authority comes from their ability to understand and apply the law. The laws are created to serve the public; in this case, a child’s best interests. Judges are to apply the laws based on the facts before them; not substitute the law with their personal beliefs.
The law exists to serve a child’s best interests, and parents are cautioned to be aware of this when bringing their disputes to the Courts. When considering whether to bring parenting or custody disputes to court, consider first consulting with an attorney.
Contact Beyer & Simonson
If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.