Are Women Favored In Divorce Court In Minnesota?

Do Women Have An Advantage in Minnesota Divorce Courts?

It’s a common misconception that In Minnesota Divorce Courts a woman has a big advantage over a man. After doing family law for over 13 years in Minnesota and going from Worthington to Albert Lea on a daily basis I think I have a good perspective to answer this question. I can firmly say the answer is….no, women aren’t favored in Minnesota

Men's Rights

Of Course the System is Fair…

family law courts.

Ok, but then why does it seem  mother’s get custody more often than fathers in Minnesota? Because  statistically the mother does receives custody more often than fathers in Minnesota. Well, I hate to say it, but from what I see, the mothers actually do the bulk of the parenting. Now not all the time of course, there are fantastic dads and miserable moms, but often the mother is the primary caregiver. I believe the problem comes from fathers who think that even though they don’t do one-half of the parenting they believe they should get a 50-50 custody arrangement.

When I talk to many fathers who want either joint custody or even sole physical custody they often don’t know what goes into being the primary caregiver. While I don’t have statistics to back this up, I can say that usually the mother takes the kids to Doctor, Dentist, school activities, goes shopping, drives the kids to their friends, etc., etc. Instead I hear complaints about it being a “stacked system” that the dads can’t win, blah, blah, blah. Well I’ve gotten plenty of father’s custody over the past decade, but these were fathers who deserved it, who worked hard to be a good dad, didn’t come and just watch tv or go to the bar.

I think the problem is more one of perspective and having a good family law attorney tell their client the likely outcome of the case What I have seen frequently are attorneys who style themselves “Father’s Rights” attorneys. I have no idea what this means. This is a great marketing gimmick but it really doesn’t mean anything because fathers have the identical rights that mothers have. there is no special section in the Minnesota divorce code that give gender specific rights. Instead of giving good legal advice, they complain about the system, charge their client too much to put a fight when the only one who knows they are going to lose is the client paying the bill.

If you are a man and reading this, you might be happy to hear you have an equal playing field in Minnesota courts, but that doesn’t mean you get any special rights, instead you’ll be viewed the same as your wife in court. Women reading this, don’t be disappointed, instead you need to listen when your lawyer tells you it’s not a slam dunk you’ll get custody and lifelong alimony check.

Feel free to post a comments and tell me if I’m right or wrong!

Rosengren Kohlmeyer, Law Office
Mankato, Minnesota

About Jason Kohlmeyer

With over 14 years experience in high conflict family law cases, numerous awards, and frequent lecturer through both Minnesota and the United States on family law issues, Jason has decided to help folks through a blog, answering some of the most common questions that people have during divorce and family law cases


  1. It’s incredibly easy to state that the MN divorce statutes are fair, because that may be true. However, the presiding judge has more than enough latitude to make the outcome unfair. The reality is that there are many judges out there who hold the bias. It is not simply the letter of the law, but that combined with the incredible latitude to mold the outcome based off of bias on their part–this is where the system is flawed.

    • This is a good comment, but you have to remember that all law has this flaw. The weakest link is the sole man or woman wearing the robe and until we can come up with a better solution this is what we are stuck with. The good news it that the Minnesota Court of Appeals is what is called a “error correcting court” which means if the Judge made errors they may (but not always) be corrected by the three judge panel at the court of appeals. Thanks for the comment, Jason Kohlmeyer.

  2. This one came in via email…

    Hi Jason

    I just read your blog on divorce and I don’t agree with it. I am going throw a divorce right now and I just get bet up by the courts I have been the main care provider for my son ever senates he was 5 weeks old and he is 9 now and his mother brakes the court order all the time and nothing is done about it and it don’t seem to matter to any one what I have to say I am the one how always has taken my son to the bus he come to my shop after school I took he to daycare and picked him up I go to all school Activities I make sure he was always feed bathed in bed had Clean clothes to wear his mother spends a lot of time at her work and out of town.

    I have not seen any fairness at tall from the courts she just keeps getting every thing she wants. I am not a alcoholic or Drug addict I am just a good dad trying to do my best for my son and what is right for my son.

    Thank you
    A very bet up dad

  3. I read your post about the fairness of the courts in divorces in Minnesota. I cannot disagree with you more. You have made presumptuous statements such as “from what I see, the mothers actually do the bulk of the parenting.” As a professional who is making such statements, what makes your opinion better than anyone else’s? The fact that you have “talked” to several people over the 11 years that you tout as being in business? Do they represent a representative sample of men going through a divorce in Minnesota? You clearly note that you have no statistics to back up your statements so in fact, they are your biased opinions.

    I went through a divorce 12 years ago and I was the one who took my kids to daycare, picked them up, cooked for my family, cleaned our house, attended all my kids games and events together with my spouse, and yet my ex was granted custody of my children.

    Your article is clearly biased, self-serving, and without evidence. You place most men in categories such as “coming home and watching TV or going top a bar.” You say things like, “When I talk to many fathers who want either joint custody or even sole physical custody they often don’t know what goes into being the primary caregiver….blah, blah, blah.” As a scientist, I found your blog to be very unprofessional

    • Harold,

      Thanks for your comment and for reading the blog. You indicated you are a scientist, and I can fully understand that you don’t think much of soft social sciences where we don’t use a lot empirical data. You are correct in stating I’m making broad and sweeping generalizations, and I agree I am. Not every family has the same dynamics, but in my business you need to make certain assumptions of how people, including the Judge or the opposing lawyer or even the parties will act. Humans aren’t chemical reactions that will respond the same every single time.

      I’m sorry you didn’t get custody of your kids, I truly am, but sounds to me you hired the wrong lawyer. Many people, scientists in particular, have a bad habit of thinking lawyers are any equipment, that they are truly interchangeable or fungible. You have learned the hard way that that’s not the case.

      As for being biased, you indicate that I cite no statistics and my opinion is biased. Well, I don’t have statistics and it is biased. I’m not a reporter or a scientist, I have no agenda but to try and educate people who, like yourself, have a bit of a skewed view of the justice system in Minnesota.

      Again, I am sorry to hear about your misfortune regarding your children but no system is perfect and until we can come up with a better system to dispense justice, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.

      Thanks for reading.


  4. ConcernedFather says:

    I can tell you that in my case you are wrong. I hired an attorney I filed all the papers with the court because there were and are emotional and physical abuse happening to my son when he is with his mother. I filed for temporary relief because of the serious issues that were going on with my son (4) (major dental issues due to no dental hygiene, physical abuse, neglect and my son being exposed to sexual acts by his mother) the judge disregarded all the evidence and information I had and told my attorney at the time in chambers that “it’s normal” and told my attorney that if we went ahead with the hearing he would deny me. He did this without hearing my arguments. She is unstable, doesn’t hold a job for long and moves from place to place yet she has the right to deny me to see my son because we were not married and she’s a woman. I have a good job. I have lived at the same address since my son was born. I spent $20,000+ on this custody issue and we haven’t even been to pre trial yet. My attorney dropped me because I could not pay him. I am completely disgusted with how this judge (and I assume it’s not just him) choose to side with her because she’s a woman. I have called over 10 different attorneys and the answer I get from most of them is that I have no hope in the county my case is being handled in. My son frequently tells me about ongoing neglect and abuse but I’m at a loss. It seems there is no one out there to help a father in my situation.


  5. Honestly? Reading this made me sick. Are you stuck in 1942 when mothers stayed home and cooked, cleaned, did the laundry & dealt with the kids? Welcome to 2014, times have changed.
    I have worked with children for 10 years, since I was practically a child myself.. And until the situation became personal to me I never understood what was really going on with parental rights… And how badly fathers are treated by the courts.
    Gender has nothing to do with your ability to parent, the ability to give your child love and attention that they need. Sure, mothers are often seen as the loving and nurturing type but by no means are fathers not capable of the same. I have seen just as many loving and supportive fathers as I have mothers.
    I also find it sad that your a lawyer and claim to not understand the notion of fathers rights… Look at the laws then think about the custody and support cases you have seen. Mothers can quit their jobs with no good reason and the father is forced to pay out hundreds of dollars every month making it so that he cannot even afford to spend time with his children. Yet, if he were to up and quit his job for even a good reason… His income would be imputed to him and he’d be forced to pay or it would go into arrears. Then there’s custody… Mothers can be downright awful parents and still the courts will place them primarily in the mothers care. Why? It makes no sense whatsoever..
    If minnesota courts were fair to fathers, we would have a 50/50 custody statute written into the laws, fathers wouldn’t be forced to fork over 65% of their GROSS income to support their children, we would realize the worth that fathers have in their childrens life. We would appreciate the special relationship that fathers and their children have. We wouldn’t be posting stupid sexist blogs like this online talking about roles that made sense 50 years ago.
    And the thing that makes me sickest of all is that this is all done “in the best interests of the child”.. If the courts had our childrens best interest at heart… It wouldn’t be the way it is.

    • Angie,

      Thanks for the comments.

      Wow, I’m not sure exactly what you’re upset about it, as I don’t think the article claims all women stay home and take care of babies like it was fact the article actually talks about women NOT being favored and that this is a huge misconception in Minnesota.

      Minnesota law, and that’s what this was about, is crystal clear about gender and parenting, there is no favorite or presumption to either the father or mother. The law is completely gender neutral. There is not a single law on the books that says when a husband and wife are getting divorced the wife gets the kids, the law doesn’t read that way. Now, if you’re talking about a man fathering a child out of wedlock, different story and different laws…

      You are correct about if someone quits working then income is typically imputed,but again it’s gender neutral, I’ve had many mothers who have chosen to work 20-30 hours a week and had income imputed to them, as allowed by Minnesota law.

      One final point here and it’s an important one that you’ll recall 10th grade civics and the separation of powers doctrine. Lawyers and Judges (often lumped together and called the Judicial Branch) don’t actually write or create laws, that’s what the legislature does. Judges makes decisions within the law and lawyers argue about the law. If you want the law to be a presumption of equal parenting you’ve got to lobby the legislation to do that, not lawyers or judges.

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