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Child Custody Laws in North Dakota

Child Custody Laws in North Dakota



North Dakota’s child custody laws have experienced notable transformations over the past decade to prioritize children’s well-being and ensure fairness for parents involved in custody proceedings. The following key updates from 2013 to 2023 highlight North Dakota’s commitment to adapting its child custody regulations:

2014 – Child’s Best Interests:

   – North Dakota establishes the child’s best interests as the primary consideration in custody determinations.

2015 – Joint Custody Emphasis:

   – Emphasis on joint custody arrangements to promote the involvement of both parents.

2016 – Mediation Promotion:

   – Introduction of mediation as an alternative to litigation for resolving custody disputes.

2017 – Domestic Violence Consideration:

   – North Dakota considers domestic violence history when determining custody arrangements.

2018 – Child’s Preferences Acknowledged:

   – Courts start considering the child’s preferences as a factor in custody decisions.

2019 – Parenting Plans Requirement:

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody arrangements, visitation, and decision-making responsibilities.

2020 – Relocation Guidelines:

   – Establishment of guidelines addressing parental relocations and their impact on existing custody arrangements.

2021 – Mental Health Evaluation:

   – Introduction of mental health evaluations when relevant to parental fitness and child well-being.

2022 – Co-Parenting Education:

   – Requirement for parents to attend co-parenting education classes to enhance communication and cooperation.

2023 – Technology’s Role in Parenting:

   – North Dakota addresses the role of technology in co-parenting and its potential effects on children.

These updates underscore North Dakota’s commitment to creating a supportive and nurturing environment for children while ensuring fairness for parents involved in custody matters.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in North Dakota

State legislators and citizens have been attempting to change custody laws in North Dakota for several years now.  If you are a North Dakota parent, you need up to date information on current child custody laws so that you can more effectively present your custody case.  This guide can explain current child custody laws in North Dakota so that you can do further research on your own.

Ballot Measure

In 2011, North Dakotans defeated a ballot measure that would have made judges operate under a presumption of shared legal and physical custody for parents.  This law would have given shared custody to parents unless there was a specific reason for not doing so.

Because the ballot measure was defeated, child custody laws in North Dakota do not assume that joint custody would generally be in the best interest of the child, and courts may opt to grant whatever kind of custody they feel is in the best interest of the child.

Parenting Plans

Some North Dakota parents prefer to work out an agreement on their own rather than enduring the difficulties of a child custody hearing.  These agreements, called parenting plans, are allowed by child custody laws in North Dakota, and may present parents’ best opportunity at getting joint custody arrangements.

Parenting plans must reflect agreement on all aspects of parenting responsibilities, including where the child will live, which parent or parents will have responsibility for decisions about all aspects of the child’s life, and what will be done in case of disagreements.  Child custody laws in North Dakota require that parenting plans be approved by a court, but this is generally a formality.

Legal Custody

Legal custody describes a relationship in which a parent has responsibility for major decisions on behalf of a child, including medical and schooling decisions.  Legal custody can be shared between parents, in which case they will need to discuss and come to an agreement about these major choices, or it can be solely in the hands of one parent.

If sole legal custody is assigned, the non-custodial parent no longer needs to be part of the decisionmaking process.  However, in general, child custody laws in North Dakota require the custodial parent to inform the non-custodial parent about these decisions.

Physical Custody

Physical custody simply means where a child will live, and it is one of the most contested aspects of custody.  Custody laws in North Dakota usually result in one parent being awarded primary custody (meaning that this parent will reside with the child most of the time).

Shared custody may be awarded with a 50/50 time split, but this usually only occurs when the parents can make a parenting plan, rather than having a judge award custody.  This is because if parents have taken their custody dispute all the way to a hearing, the judge is unlikely to believe that they can work together to make decisions in the best interest of their child together or split time in a way that will lead to a truly even split.