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Encourages supporters to try again next year

Dayton vetoes changes to child custody bill

Gov. Mark Dayton will not sign a bill to increase the baseline custody presumption for divorcing parents from 25 percent to 35 percent.

By not signing the bill, Dayton effectively vetoed it.

The bill passed on the last night of the legislative session and had been sitting on Dayton’s desk for a few weeks. It was opposed by the Family Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association, but many family law judges and lawyers did testify in support of it.

The bill was a stripped down version of the original bill that changed the presumption to joint, physical custody for both parents in a divorce. That bill was introduced early in the session and was changed several times after objections from lawmakers and a fiscal study that determined the change could wind up costing the courts millions.

Opponents of the bill said it would not only cost the courts money, but also lead to more, lengthy custody fights during divorces because the allocation of parenting time is used to calculate spousal support.

Dayton said both sides made good arguments, and encouraged supporters to reintroduce the idea next session, but in the end he said there was too much uncertainty surrounding how the law would affect children.

“People and parties on both sides of the legislation share the same good faith intentions rooted in their shared desire to proscribe what will be best for every parent and, especially, every child ensnared in the painful dissolution of a marriage,” Dayton wrote. “Torn between the persuasive arguments of both proponents and opponents of the legislation, I am particularly influenced by the strong opposition of so many organizations (although not all of their members), who work every day with the most challenging divorces and their effects on the well-being, and even the safety, of parents and children.”



  1. Dear Gov. Dayton
    You state “there was too much uncertainty about how the change in the custody formula might affect children.”These are the current Facts of Fatherless Homes under the current structure of Family Courts resolutions. Children from fatherless homes account for:63 percent(pct) of youth suicides, 71 pct of pregnant teenagers, 70 pct of juveniles in state-operated institutions,85 pct have exhibit behavioral disorders, 80 pct of rapists, 71 pct of high school dropouts, 75 pct of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers, 85 pct of all youths locked in prison, 90 pct of runaway children, 37 pct of fathers have no access or visitation rights. Governor Dayton with all your wisdom and discernment help me understand why you would choose the status quo? With due respect Sir, I suggest you fire your advisor because clearly your enclave does not have the ability to make good judgments. I suggest you hire new advisors for the children of MN. WELL BEING

  2. We have large problems under the current environment.
    1)The childrens well being:The above Facts of Fatherless Homes under the current structure of Family Courts resolutions.
    2) The discrimination of a fit parent by a Government agency (Family Court)
    3) Legislators should not put their own self interest above the welfare of children by pandering to the desires of American Association Matrimonial Lawyers

  3. Bi-partisan support State Senate: The roll was called, and there was 46 YEAs and 19 nays State House: The roll was called and there was 86 YEAs and 42 Nays Governor Dayton what did you specifically not like about HF 322 which the majority approved in both the state House and the state Senate? Did you share your concerns to Representative Peggy Scott? The only request you made as I recall was the bill must have bi-partisan support. Clearly HF 322 did have bipartisan support. This issue has been fought for 13 years because parents have passion for their children. This was a great bill to move this issue into the future. Why did you veto HF 322 when you clearly did not involve yourself with the solution? Can you please explain your behavior to the citizens of MN? If you have a better solution please submit it to Representative Scott by September 1. Thanks Governor I want to be optmistic for my children

  4. In reference to the cost of the bill HF 322:
    from a purely cost perspective. There point is that a new law allows old cases to be re-kindled and therefore there is a cost. If it was only forward looking this could be minimized but that is not realistic. The argument I would make (I am an amateur) is that you cannot claim that remediation of a prior injustice is a cost which should be avoided. The law is an effort to correct an important injustice in the existing law. I would say that “the existing law has created clear and documented injustices … there are always costs to overcome past injustices, such costs are an essential element of our society and its social fabric. Such costs should never be an impediment to achieve justice for the harmed. The members of society who are harmed by the current law include not only many fathers but most importantly many children as well. These are injustices which should be corrected and yes there is a cost to correct a prior injustice. Finally, we completely dispute that any incremental costs are incurred for new situations. The proposed law change solely changes the basis on which judges should evaluate the case.”

  5. Mike Dittberner says, ‘ Minnesota courts already have flexibility, and most parents agree on the shared parenting that makes the most sense for their families.’ ( The national average is 90 pct to one parent and 10 pct to the other parent Is Mike Dittberner speaking the Truth?)

    “What you’re talking about are those cases in which people don’t otherwise agree,” said Mike Dittberner, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. His organization and the Family Law Section of the Minnesota Bar opposed the bill. (Well 6 pct of cases do go to trial, most cases are settled because of the excessive cost of fighting discrimination. The standard of evidence allowed in Family court allows for bully tactics, distorted stories and hearsay evidence. “Clear and Convincing evidentiary standard should be required before the government can restrict a child’s access to FIT parents or restrict parents access to the child. The U.S. Supreme Court has established in a long line of cases that in order to strip someone of a fundamental right, the courts must use what is considered the “intermediary evidentiary standard” of “clear and convincing evidence.” That is why current child protection law ALSO requires “clear and convincing evidence” before you can take a child away from a parent. It shouldn’t be easier for a parent to lose their child in family court (when there is no guilt of harm to child) than it is in child protection court (when there is guilt). “This Court has mandated an intermediate standard of proof – ‘clear and convincing evidence’ – when the individual interests at stake in a state proceeding are both ‘particularly important’ and ‘more substantial than mere loss of money …” Santosky v Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982))

    Mike Dittberner says”Once you start monk eying around with presumptions and start changing the law and impacting upon those cases in which agreement is not reached, or is only with great difficulty reached, you’re going to run the risk of increasing litigation.” (This is a false statement by Mike Dittberner. As the change in the standard of evidence would make the court more efficient in processing a case.

    Battered women’s advocates also opposed the bill HF 322.
    (This bill HF 322 leaves domestic violence statues alone. HF322 establishes a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard NOT for “all domestic violence” but it only will apply/require this standard of evidence before the court can restrict access to your children, consistent with U.S. Supreme Court. This means ALL domestic violence protections for victims of domestic abuse remain in place. MN518B.01 still used.)

  6. Gov. Dayton’s inaction is heartbreaking… as a divorced dad I have spent enough money to put my daughter through college fighting my ex-wife for more parental responsibility. I have after 7 years only 1 night per week! I feel like the legal system treats me like an outcast and unworthy of time with my daughter, despite the fact that I have no criminal history, college education, long employment history, and most importantly, a stong and loving relationship with my daughter.

    The system is broken… HF 322 was a step in the right direction toward a fair and equitable solution. Children deserve the right to spend frequent, quality time with both parents, especially when the love and support is without question. Gov. Dayton has disappointed me tremendously with his inaction on something that should have been a no-brainer.

  7. Congrats Gov. Dayton on doing the right thing! The child custody laws do not need to change. Not all cases should be treated the same and to increase time to unfit parents is the wrong thing to do. If anything there should be a decrease from the standard 25 percent that is in place now.

  8. Gov. Dayton did not block unfit parents from getting more time. He blocked FIT parents from getting more time. Unfit parents get supervised visits or less time based on their crimes.
    James- I suggest you read the bill, your obvious ignorance is showing.
    The “fit” parent in our situation lives with a ex-con, drug dealing, meth head; who has been stealing from the kids and their BM. He picks my 10yo SS up by his head, pulls his hair as punishment, and punishes him for not eating by giving him charlie-horses (which has caused him to choke and thow up). BM lives off CS and state assistance and refuses to purchase clothes or school supplies for the kids. The money has gone to her constant phone shopping, tablets, laptops, new clothes, and a new car… Along with supporting the BF when between jobs (which has been about 80% of the time, he keeps getting let go, wonder why…). We have all this stuff going on, but until the kids get hurt our government does not want to step in and help, until then she is the “fit” parent.
    This bill would originally (before the senate gutted it) given FIT parents equal rights to their children at the time of the divorce; just as they had when married. The burden of proof would be to prove that the parent didn’t deserve those rights. Right now parents not only have to prove that the other parent is not fit, but that they are more fit. To add insult to this the courts favor women, so men are being reduced to visitors in their childs life.
    It’s distubing to me that our Govenor would be swayed so greatly by high paying interest groups rather than listening to his voters.

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