In a custody and parenting time proceeding, alleging that the other parent has committed domestic abuse against you or child is a very serious allegation. Often, this could involve two different Court proceedings, one in an Order for Protection proceeding—Minnesota Statute 518B and the other would be in a Family Court action, as guided by the best interests factors and endangerment factors under Minnesota Statue 518.17 and/or 518.18.
Types of Endangerment
Courts typically require a showing of substantial degree of endangerment to a child before they will consider significantly modifying parenting time or custody. This endangerment could be in the form of either physical or emotional harm to a child. In order to demonstrate this type of harm, there typically needs to be a nexus between the actual harm itself and the resulting behavior on the part of the child. For instance: the child acting out violently; the child’s grades suffering at school; a child’s behavior being significantly impacted, etc. If a parent raises this type of an allegation, it needs to be supported with sufficient evidence.
For instance, if a parent truly believes their child was physically injured, that parent should consider contacting child protection or social services, involving the police, or petitioning for a an emergency Order for Protection to protect the child from the abusive parent. This information can later be considered by the Family Court. As such, if there is truly a claim of physical harm to a child, often judicial officers will expect a parent to act on that and if they do not act in a reasonable time, it calls into questions whether or not the child was truly harmed to the extent that the parent claims.
One other thing to consider is that if a child does not return for parenting time for a significant period of time, it could also result in the other parent claiming that the child has been integrated into that parent’s environment with the consent of the other party. This could be sufficient basis to attempt to change custody pursuant to Minnesota Statute 518.18.
Emotional harm is difficult to prove; however, if a child is being emotionally harmed and it is impacting that child’s behavior and/or mental health, the parent should seriously consider the involvement of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist to assist the child. The professional, if he/she believes the child is suffering emotional endangerment in the environment of the other parent, can certainly speak to that. This would make the allegations of emotional abuse stronger if reviewed by a judicial officer. While considering this route, a parent must also consider the confidentially of the child’s therapeutic records, as it would likely breach the child’s confidentiality in those sessions if the parent attempts to use the therapist and/or the therapy records to demonstrate emotional harm.
What to do next
A parent needs to be very careful about making allegations of harm. If those allegations go unsupported or not presented as credible evidence, it could actually harm the parent who makes those allegations during a custody and/or parenting time case.
Cases involving domestic abuse in Minnesota are especially challenging. If you are unsure about how to proceed, please, contact us today to schedule your free consultation. You can call us at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form.