In an unpublished opinion in Newman vs. Newman, A15-0561 (Minn.Ct. App. Dec.21, 2015) the court of appeals reviewed an appeal from a divorce involving a 16 year marriage involving three minor children with a mother who had been a full-time homemaker since 2003 and a father who recently retired early. The trial court granted joint legal custody, but granted the father sole physical custody.
Mother appealed and claimed the trial court erred in not granting her joint physical custody or sole physical custody. The appellate court noted there had been acrimony and a lot of personal attacks in the case and that a current harassment restraining order precluded father from harassing the mother. It was noted this conflict did not support their ability to cooperate under a joint physical custody arrangement.
The court also found that although there was not evidence of domestic abuse, the court had deep concern about the safety of the parties’ daughters around the mother’s live in boyfriend who had been convicted of felony invasion of privacy of a minor for hiding a video camera in his 17 year-old, step-daughter’s bathroom. It was specifically ordered the mother’s parenting time not include her boyfriend and that the mother’s boyfriend directing impacted the physical and emotional safety of the children.
In addressing the best interest factors the court noted nine were neutral, one inapplicable, two favored the father and one favored the mother. The deciding factor was the interaction and interrelationship of a person who may significantly affect the children’s best interests. In this case the mother’s decision to live with a convicted felon who had harmed his step-daughter lead to her losing physical custody.
If custody is an issue in a divorce or paternity action it is crucial to immediately consult with an experienced divorce lawyer or knowledgeable family law attorney. Decisions about living arrangements, significant others, and high conflict disputes with your spouse can preclude sharing joint physical custody or even lead to a longtime homemaker to lose physical custody.