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.
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.
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 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 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.