Minnesota's Family Law Blog

Are Mothers Favored In Divorce Court In Minnesota?

picture of kids and a mother

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 22 years in Minnesota and going from Worthington to Rochester to Mankato on a daily basis I think I have a good perspective on how to answer this question. I can firmly say the answer is….no. Women aren’t favored in Minnesota family law courts.

Ok, but then why does it seem  mother’s get custody more often than fathers in Minnesota? Well that is a good question and it is a fact,  statistically, mothers receive full custody more often than fathers in Minnesota.  When I see this happened I will say that those cases the the mothers actually do the majority 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 at least from what I have seen the mother takes the kids to Doctor, Dentist, school activities, goes shopping, drives the kids to their friends, etc., etc. This is what is called primary caregiver.   Instead I hear complaints about it being a “stacked system” that the dads can’t win, blah, blah, blah. 

I’ve gotten plenty of father’s custody over the past decades, 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; they coached their kids little league, took them to the doctor and stayed home when they were sick.

I think the problem is more one of perspective and not 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 under Minnesota Law there is no special section in the Minnesota divorce code that give gender specific rights. Instead of giving good legal advice, these self-styled “men’s rights’ lawyers complain about the system and charge their clients way too much to put a fight when they know they can’t win just to pad 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 that you’ll get custody and a lifelong alimony check.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgeable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-625-5000.

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Comments 21
  1. I share the opinion of many of the responses. I’ve never had a custody issue so I wasn’t upset about any of that stuff. I was turned off by you saying that Dad’s don’t do the work that Mom’s do as if Dad working his butt off 9-5 doesn’t play a roll in this calculation. Not only that, but in my experience, mom’s and dad’s parent the child at different proportions in proportion to the kid’s age. Its the dad that throws the ball with Timmy in the back yard or buys him his first dirt bike. Its dad’s that teach young boys to be men. Its not mom’s. Mom’s teach young girls how to be ladies. A mom can have a close friendship like relationship with a child but its the Dad’s responses to the child that destroy them or solidify them later in life. Not that the mom doesn’t have a part in that, of course, but its disproportionate. I hope you can take this criticism constructively.

    1. Tom,
      Thanks for the comment. I would say I am surprised you said you were “turned off’ by my comment about Dad’s not doing the work etc. etc. The issue isn’t what I am saying it’s the reality of the court system. You may not like, but the simple truth is that if dad is working all day and mom isn’t, it does not take a rocket scientist to see who has the advantage in a custody battle I can’t go in and argue that dad should get equal parenting time because he has bought Timmy’s first dirt bike or played catch, that’s a minor point for most judges. What they want to see is who did the work, did dad take time off of work when Timmy was sick? Did he set up school conferences (and attend), did He take Timmy to the well baby check up? If not dad will be at a disadvantage. Period.

      I think you were taking my article as my personal beliefs on how the system should work not my legal analysis of how the Minnesota Courts Actually work.

  2. You are wrong. I am in the middle of a 3 year long high conflict disaster of a divorce “proceeding-S”, with no end in sight. It had been anything but just, easy, reasonable, inexpensive, or unbiased. Women are absolutely favored in nearly all facets of the entire family court and family services infrastructure.

    You are one of: naive and inexperienced (or) one that is right in his sweet spot as an active greedy unethical participant in the extraordinary dysfunction that is the mn family court system or (3) an idiot.

    You’re in the right niche of the legal profession–family law. You don’t need to know the facts. The law is open for interpretation. And views like “women do all the parenting” are embraced and rewarded.

    No matter which of the three you fit in–you will make money. But your article is misleading crap.


    1. Anthony,

      Interesting comments, they don’t make any sense but they are interesting. If I read your comments the only people who practice family are either naive or greedy or an idiot? Those are the options for people who go into family law? Interesting hypotheses.

      Folks, these are the type of people I’m talking about, the type who go ultra-aggressive from the start, make wide sweeping assumptions, then when the case doesn’t go their way they just troll the internet to complain, those are the people who complain about the system.

      Anthony, I’m going to suggest something if your divorce case is taking three years you are doing something wrong, terribly wrong.

      I’m reminded of one my favorite quotes that perhaps Anthony should heed “The fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars…”

      Best of luck on your case but please let’s tame down the name calling and speak like educated and civilized Americans in discourse on our Judicial system, ok? Thanks.

    2. As a woman who has worked in the family law field
      For 15 years, I can tell you you are dead wrong. MN
      Is a dinosaur state when it comes to law, especially
      family law. It is far behind in how you run your court
      system and how you deal with family dynamics and
      Family post marital issues. Men have no leg to stand on in MN no matter how much evidence they have.
      The woman can make up anything and it is believed and rarely if ever questioned. You clearly have never worked in a functioning judicial system as let’s say
      Maryland which is a 50/50 state. There are so many
      things wrong with MN I can go on for hours.

      1. Thanks for the comment.

        I have to say I just can’t agree with you on this point though. I get Dad’s equal parenting time all the time in Minnesota, it’s not hard, in fact it’s pretty darn easy if the dad has his act together. I’ve written a fair bit about this, on this blog and there are of course the outliers, the bad judge or what have you, but overall what I tell clients is that if you are a father seeking a divorce in Minnesota and want equal parenting time, there has never been a better time to to get equal parenting time than right now.

  3. How do you know you’re hiring a good lawyer or a shady one? My fiance and I have been researching for a while and they all look good on their websites, offer free consults, and give price ranges. We met with one and liked what we heard in our consult, but want more opinions. How do you know if they feed us bs or will actually fight for us and win us 50% custody and parenting time? We have a stable house, would love to do take her to school and activities and share the physical and financial responsibility of the parenting. Do you have recommendations on these good lawyers? I wish they all were honest but in this world, every career has rotten eggs. We are having a hard time choosing and need to go with someone who cares and is the best.

    1. Great question!

      I wrote a blog a little while ago on this topic

      A couple more tips would be to go and meet the lawyer. Do they seem rushed to just have you sign the retainer and get the check? Are they actually listening to your concerns? That’s the first big tip. Next, look around the office what do you see? You should see an organized small business, well kept and modern. If you don’t see that well…luckily for you there are many, many family lawyers around!

      Final look at what they do besides family law. Do you focus primarily in Family Law or do they also do 5 other areas of law? The best family lawyers I know do only family law or family law and one other related area.

      Hope that helps!

  4. If you are charged with a crime; 6k and you have a lawyer from arrest to trail. In family court, since there are very few actual laws, its based more on contractual agreements. And lawyers can milk the dads until they have no more to give. All because the other party can say no without reason. And the saddest fact, Judges are cowards and lazy. It’s far easier to side with those who has the argument that no one will fault them on even if its irrational. I had evidence facts and support but in the end it didn’t matter in the State of Minnesota.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I don’t really agree with what you said as it’s pretty clear you had a bad lawyer. Most lawyers don’t “milk the dads” but I agree there are same shady lawyers out there just like any other profession. What you want to do is ALWAYS ask the lawyer for an estimate. What do I mean? ask them how much this is going to cost, a range, and any reputable family lawyer can easily give you a range on the cost.

      Sorry to hear the outcome didn’t go in your favor, but that’s why every judge in the State of Minnesota is up for election every 6 years, so if you feel the Judge is a bad or unbiased judge, you can vote them out!

  5. I disagree with this article. Here’s the problem, when 2 people get married, and then divorced, it should be over. Just because a women decides to stay at home vs work, does not entitle her to a lifetime of payments from her ex, while moving on with her life and sleeping with a new man. Remember she is at home because the MAN is out working providing for the family. No woman should ever get lifetime payments, she can cheat, steal, and leave the marriage and still get alimony. I don’t know how much more needs to be said, it’s a joke, and you lawyers are the cause of all these issues. If divorce was done right, you would never make a dime because it would be simply split 50-50 anything purchased together and move on. How much sense does it make for a divorced woman or man to get their ex’s 401k etc? How can someone be entitled to a lifetime of payments when they are fucking someone else? It’s called a divorce because you are done with each other, basically a woman is getting paid for marrying a man , and can cheat and still get paid . It’s wrong, and shows just how sad this country is becoming.

    Answer this almighty lawyers— a couple is married 4 years, the couple both work, have a couple kids, and house, couple cars etc.. The man has a 401k, wife doesn’t, the wife went to school to cut hair, the man is a principal of a school and were in these positions before they met. The woman sleeps with someone else or decides she wants to end it for other reasons, what is a fair dissolution of the marriage?

    Does she deserve half his 401k, alimony and child support? Why would she deserve his retirement? Why would she deserve child support based on income of the dad when she has every chance to make more but chose her career? Why does she deserve to get paid for just getting married ? The only support even remotely ok to charge the guy is child support, and that should be it. You are lawyers are ducking idiots , you make a man pay child support, alimony and give up future money, all in the name of ” it has to be fair” and the woman has the right to live like the man who makes more” how is that possibly fair? a woman can cheat, leave and get paid, a man can cheat, leave and then pay also… A divorce should mean ” it’s over” … She’s out screwing someone else living her life, just as he would be, there should be no money paid to anyone besides CS … Grow up get a life , get a job, and provide for yourself, what the courts are saying is a man can be a fucking man and support his family and the wife not work, she can fuck the Gardner, get a divorce and get paid because the “man” kept her from “bettering her life ” by being a stay at home mom” give me a break that man deserves to be commended and the wife should be paying him for letting her not work. So on top of forking out money to support her not working, taking into consideration she is probably taking care of the kids and house, he still is miles ahead of what she has contributed. Can’t charge for 8 hours a day when the kids are at school, friends “, sports etc… A housekeeper makes on average 15 an hour if that is what a woman wants to be considered, then deduct a little for that.. It’s kinda difficult for a man to be the primary bread winner and also take care of everything else when he is out making money. Women need to be treated like they deserve, just like a man, there should be no alimony, stealing of retirement, etc… Step up women because we all know that the majority of you only look for a man for ” financial security” , you spread your legs thinking that’s worth half his retirement, well it ain’t worth all that much to be honest, and whn you choose to leave, cheat etc, fend for yourself. You are saying ” marry a man ” because then you will be taken care of for life… Since when does it makes a lick of sense that 2 people can divorce and the man is forced to pay so the woman can have her lifestyle, a nice house , car etc,… How the fuck is anyone entitled to that after they split? What a joke, the whole premise of divorce is moving on, but yet the man gets treated like he has to pay for the pussy the rest of his life, it’s her life, it’s her problem to make a new one, no man should be held responsible to make sure a woman to be entitled to live the same life..

    All you lawyers are nothing but money grubbing low life scum…. You fucking suck…

    1. I love these comments I really do, it was written at 11:23 pm so “Tom” might have had a few too many Miller High Lifes, but what a person like Tom doesn’t understand is that if you want fair, go to the Great Minnesota Get Together. I’m not sure who told you the American Court System was fair, but you are mistaken my friend.

      I also think you may have slept through 10th grade civics, we have what are called a separation of powers doctrine, which means the Legislative branch makes the laws, Executive branch enforces the laws and the Judicial branch interprets the laws. The lawyers actually aren’t a branch of government and don’t make the laws that’s the legislature. Is it fair that your wife had an affair and get’s half of your retirement? Probably not, but the person who determines if she gets this is the Judge who has to look at the MN laws that are on the books. Can you hire crazy lawyer to argue the law shouldn’t be followed? Sure you can, let me know how that works out for you.

      A few states do have fault divorces, and let me tell you, if Minnesota had fault divorces the cost would go through the roof. If you think divorces are expensive, try hiring a private investigator and prove a spouse had an affair or spend hours of testimony that the spouse didn’t work very hard around the house, it would double or triple the cost of divorces.

      So, I see your angry about a cheating spouse and it sounds like you don’t like that you paid your lawyer what you did, but remember your lawyer didn’t marry the woman, didn’t have an affair, didn’t say she should stay home as a homemaker. Not one bit of that is the lawyers fault.

      I’ll close with this, whenever I read a rant like this I keep thinking of old Cassius “The fault, dear Brutus TOM, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.”

  6. 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.
    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. 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.

    1. 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 1942..in 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.

  7. 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.


  8. 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

    1. 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.


  9. 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

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

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