The Impact of Single Mothers and Single Fathers on the Legal System

Yesterday I posted that of 3500 custody disputes in Hennepin County last year one-half were non-married paternity cases. Of that figure, a majority of the parties to the dispute had no relationship of trust. This means that the parties to the custody dispute had not been dating or had not lived together. In a number of cases, the fathers had no knowledge of the child until the County requested child support for the child via the filing of a lawsuit against the father.

A single mother in Minnesota has sole legal and sole physical custody of children born out-of-wedlock. A single father has to establish his right to shared custody and parenting time via a court order. As soon as a father is served with child support papers, he naturally wants to establish his rights as a parent to the child. The amount the father will pay in child support is related to the percent of parenting time. If the father has more parenting time, then he pays less in support.

The key speaker at the Family Law Institute yesterday labeled the foregoing situation the “new normal.”

The law contemplates that parents of children have a prior relationship of trust; and, that the parents have some history of working together as parents or at least have knowledge of one another as dating partners if not live-in lovers. The application of the custody standard involves 13 factors that Courts apply; these factors implicitly assume a prior relationship of trust as well; e.g., what is the intimacy of the relationship between the child and the parent or do the parents communicate well enough to resolve disputes involving the child’s upbringing?

In the “new normal” and when there is a custody dispute, the Courts and custody evaluators must decide how two parents who may not know one another or have any history together can mutually cooperate to raise a child. I appreciate the difficulties of the legal system in the context of the “new normal.” The legal system, however, is only reacting to circumstances involving so many single mothers and single fathers and the children born of relationships with no prior level of trust – which is a euphemism for one-night stands in many cases.

The proactive non-legal questions become: What, if anything, can society do to assist young adults and educate young adults about the responsibilities inherent in sexual relationships? How can society educate young adults about the responsibilities of parenting? Why do young adults engage in risky behaviors without considering the end result and how that might change his or her life?

About Kate Willmore, Esq.

Kate Willmore, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, divorce, custody and family attorney brings over 25 years experience to every client's legal matter. *** Licensed in Minnesota and in California

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