A lot of people hear about different custody arrangements in movies, on TV or from their friends. While this might give someone a general sense of how child custody works, it does not address specific state laws. Parents in Minnesota might not understand that child custody laws are different from state to state.

There are two different kinds of child custody — legal and physical. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions about his or her child’s upbringing, including about religion and education. Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child actually lives, and who provides shelter, food and general necessities.

Both parents can share legal custody, physical custody or a combination of the two. For example, parents might share joint legal custody, while only one has physical custody. It is also possible for parents to share joint custody — both legal and physical — or for only one parent to have sole custody.

Minnesota judges will also take a child’s wishes into account so long as he or she is mature enough. Children will not have to speak in front of their parents or other people in the courtroom though. Instead, judges will speak to children in their chambers.

Navigating the process of creating the best possible child custody agreement can be confusing. On top of that, parents usually have fairly strong feelings about what their child’s best interests are — and they do not always line up. For parents who want to make sure that their custody agreement reflects those best interests and not their ex spouses’ wishes, it can be helpful to speak with an experienced attorney.