The first hearings
scheduled is the initial case management conference (ICMC). The ICMC is
the hearing that allows the parties for the first time to tell the Judge what
issues they may have in the case, whether formalized discovery is necessary or
whether a custody evaluation will be required. The Judge is not supposed
to enter any order at this meeting unless agreed to by the parties. Prior
to the ICMC, each party is required to submit a financial disclosure statement
and a summary of the case.
What Happens When There is A Custody Dispute?
In Hennepin county custody cases, where the parties cannot reach an agreement on physical custody, the matter will be referred over to the Hennepin County Court Services' office located in the Family Justice Center for a custody evaluation.
How Much Does it Cost?
A custody evaluation performed by Hennepin County is much less expensive than a private custody evaluation by a psychologist. However, it is also often less in depth. In the Hennepin County custody process each party is ordered to pay $250 for the custody evaluation. This custody evaluation fee may be waived if there is little property owned by the parties and the incomes of the parties fall below poverty levels.
How Long Does a Custody Evaluation Take?
In Hennepin county, custody evaluations will generally take 120 days to complete. However,
a court may also order an expedited custody evaluation in order to determine
temporary parenting schedules. The length of time for the ultimate custody
evaluation varies depending upon the issues of the case. In some custody evaluations, psychological exams, chemical dependency evaluations or other additional procedures may be required.
How is Information Gathered
for a custody evaluation?
- Parent Questionnaires: Each party will be asked to fill out a questionnaire. The questions asked will include questions about the history of the parties in caring for the minor child(ren), the parenting abilities of each parent including perceived strengths and weaknesses, and proposed custody plans. You should review your answers with your lawyer before submitting them.
- Collateral References: You will be asked to provide the names of collateral contacts. Collateral contacts are people who play an important role in the minor children's lives or who may provide information regarding the parenting histories of the parties. The best collateral contacts are those that would be perceived as independent. For example, the children's teachers or daycare providers, or doctors and counselors, may hold greater sway than relatives
- Releases of Information: You may be asked to provide releases of information to the custody evaluator. These releases may seek such things as school records, counseling or psychological records or medical records.
- Chemical Dependency or Psychological Evaluations: Depending on the issues of the case, the custody evaluator may require chemical dependency evaluations where there are allegations of substance abuse. A Hennepin County custody evaluation may also require psychological evaluations if there are allegations of instability or mental illness. Additionally, in cases where chemical dependency is alleged, you should always assume that any time you go to the Hennepin county court or to meet with a Hennepin County custody evaluator, you may be requested to submit to a urinalysis to determine if there has been any drug use.
If issues must be resolved pending a final divorce, the court may schedule a
temporary hearing at the ICMC. At a temporary hearing, the parties present
arguments regarding temporary issues related to custody, child support,
occupancy of the home, debt service and other issues.
Several months after the initial case management conference,
the court will schedule a settlement conference. At this conference, the
parties will check in with the Judge and then repair to conference rooms to
engage in settlement discussions. When the parties are unable to resolve their
differences, they may call upon the Judge for a cursory opinion on the issue.
This is not a decision or an order and is only an opinion based on limited
information provided. If the parties resolve their differences, the case
may be put on the record in whole or in part, on the issue that are resolved.
After the settlement conference, the court may determine that another settlement
conference should be scheduled to allow the parties to exchange additional
information or a trial date may be set.
county, the court docket is very full. Getting a trial date soon is
difficult. That is particularly true if the trial may take several days.
Trial dates may be set many months in the future. During that time parties are
expected to continue negotiations toward settlement.
You should schedule the entire day for this conference.
How well you prepare for your Hennepin County custody evaluation may have a critical effect on the outcome of your case. As you may already know, the recommendation of a custody evaluator can hold great sway with the court. You should always consult with a lawyer regarding custodial issues and evaluations.
Call (612) 240.8005
Minnesota Divorce Institute
Divorce Bulletin Board
Ask a question or review postings on our Family Law Bulletin Board
A comprehensive listing of divorce and divorce related forms for all states
Divorce Book Store
Review Books on Winning Custody, Child Support, Property
Review links to Divorce and Family Law Resources including Men's and Women's Rights
Career Center: Find a job or post a job. Prepare a resume or
have yours reviewed.
refinance, repair credit, acquire a credit report or apply for a
credit card in our Financial Center.
Find a Minnesota business or a Minnesota business
The Divorce Dad's Survival Book