Parents in Minnesota and elsewhere may be confused about who has custody of a child after a divorce. For instance, some may believe that they give up their parental rights if they move away. However, the law generally assumes that both parents retain custody and other parental rights unless a judge specifically orders otherwise. Parents should also be aware that they are entitled to legal representation, and an attorney may be provided for free if necessary.

It is important to note that parents are not required to go to court with an attorney. Those who wish to represent themselves are free to consider filing for custody pro se. Anyone who goes this route is encouraged to consult with legal counsel before making a final decision. While some may believe that judges give one gender preference over the other when making a custody ruling, this is not the case.

Judges must decide what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, it is just as likely that a father will get custody as it is that the mother will. Furthermore, rulings are not based solely on a parent’s income or other single factor. Once a child custody order is established, a parent may appeal the ruling in the future if circumstances change.

In many cases, parents will be given joint physical custody of their children. Those who want sole custody or other rights may wish to talk with an attorney. Legal counsel may be able to help persuade a judge to agree with an individual’s position in a custody case. This may be easier in cases involving a parent who has abandoned a child. However, the best interests of the child will typically trump any wishes or desires of a parent in a custody case.