Concerned Minnesota Citizens
Minnesota Child Custody Dialogue
The objective of this project was to find a collaborative solution to the multiyear debate in the Minnesota Legislature about whether or not there would be a presumption of joint custody / equal shared parenting (defined as at least 45% to each parent by default unless there were reasons not to) in the state’s child custody legislation.
Legislators, lobbyists, family lawyers, judges, child psychologists, and community advocates adopted a fundamental commitment to reach a solution that was truly acceptable to all. The group utilized Convergent Facilitation as follows:
- Identify principles / criteria to guide legislative and non-legislative solutions.
- Work in small groups to develop proposals that attend to the principles and make sense to all members.
- Review proposals together, engage creatively with dissent, and integrate the wisdom and clarity that emerge through learning the concerns. This leads to an initial decision that is acceptable to all members.
- Engage with constituencies as ambassadors of the process to support understanding of the intentions and constraints within the group, and to gather concerns.
- Digest feedback from constituencies and update decisions and legislative proposals accordingly.
- Support the four legislators to pass proposed legislation.
Key Results Achieved
On the tangible level, the project accomplished the following:
- An initial bill passed unanimously in 2014 with some preliminary changes to eliminate misunderstandings and clarify the intention to have no presumption for or against joint custody.
- A final bill passed in 2015 (unanimously by the House, and with only 3 opposing Senators). This bill revamped child custody legislation by reconfiguring the Best Interest of the Child Factors that guide all court decisions, as well as other areas within the law. This bill was embraced by the entire group and its constituencies.
On the intangible level, the project accomplished the following:
- Converting a collection of mistrustful opponents into a committed group working diligently for uncountable hours over almost three years.
- Deepening group members’ appreciation of the potential of collaborative processes to solve problems.
- Planting seeds of interest in collaborative processes in the Governor’s office.
- Creating awareness that cultural change is needed to create a child custody approach that truly works.