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Extension > Family > Parents Forever™ > For families > Resources for families > Taking Care of Yourself > The Legal Side of Family Transition > Making Custody a Win-Win

The Legal Side of Family Transition

Making Custody a Win-Win

Rose M. Allen, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency; Ellie M. McCann, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency; Joanne L. Musich, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency; and Minnell L. Tralle, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency


While custody arrangements rightly need to put children’s interests first, they also need to work for both parents. A “win-win” solution for a joint custody arrangement after divorce means that the plan:

“Fair” doesn’t necessarily mean that both parents will get everything they want in a custody arrangement. It just means they will be satisfied with the outcome and can make the arrangement work. With that in mind, here are some questions to ask as you and the other parent develop an effective arrangement for joint custody of your children.

Note that the process outlined below only applies when both parents are capable of providing a physically and emotionally safe home for their children — and therefore can coparent their children. If the court has awarded sole custody to one parent for safety reasons, the questions are irrelevant.

Ask Basic Questions

Before discussing parental and child preferences for custody, you need to answer some fundamental questions regarding your children and living arrangements:

Discuss Preferences

Your answers to the basic questions above will help you develop an outline for a joint custody arrangement. Next, talk about preferences:

Evaluate Preferences

Your next step is to assess each party’s preferences (yours, the other parent’s, and your children’s). You need to ask how each preferred custody arrangement would:

Finalize Your Plan

You and the other parent must be honest in assessing the benefits and drawbacks of each preferred custody arrangement. If you are honest, you’ll probably find that no single arrangement would best serve your children’s interests and satisfy both parents. Most likely you’ll have to have to draw from all three preferences to develop a “win-win” custody plan.


Minnesota Judicial Branch. (2001). A parental guide to making child-focused parenting time decisions.

The Office of the Revisor of Statutes. (2013). Minnesota Statute 518.17.

Related resources

Can Custody Be Changed? — Custody can be difficult to change but it is possible. Find out more.

Child Custody and Parenting TimeMinnesota Judicial Branch — Get the basics, as well as forms, related to child custody and parenting time in Minnesota.

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