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Answers To The Common Custody-Related Questions

At Nilson Brand Law, we know how hard it is to navigate a complex family matter. That is why we use our skill and knowledge to come up with a tailored solution. We pride ourselves on our ability to work hard, communicate effectively, and be there for clients when they need it most. We have handled cases of all shapes and sizes and have worked with people throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

How does the court determine who gets custody in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, the court uses what is called the best interest factors to determine what type of custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. These factors cover a wide range of topics, including the love, affection, and emotional ties existing between the parents and the child, the ability of each parent to provide food, shelter, and medical care, and even the moral fitness of each parent. A judge will weigh each of these factors and decide which party each factor favors. Some factors may carry a heavier weight (in other words, are more important), again this is determined by the judge. At the end of the day, a judge will look at these factors and how they apply to each parent to assist in making a custody determination.

Legal custody, otherwise known as decision-making responsibility, deals with things such as what school the child will attend or which doctor they see, whereas physical custody is the actual time each parent has with the child. It is common for parties to have joint legal custody, while one parent has primary residential responsibility (physical custody).

How is child support calculated in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, the first step in determining child support is to figure out how many overnights each parent has with the minor child. For example, if the parties have an equal residential responsibility (the same number of overnights each year), both parties’ incomes are taken into consideration. If one parent has primary residential responsibility while the other parent has parenting time, the noncustodial parent’s income is used to determine support. Several other things are taken into consideration when determining child support, such as who pays for health insurance and if there are any other nonjoint children who are receiving support. Child support can be complex, and having a skilled attorney can be especially helpful in this situation.

What does joint residential responsibility look like?

Joint residential responsibility can take many forms. A common schedule in North Dakota is a week on-week off schedule. This allows for each parent to have the same number of weekdays and weekends with the child. A week on-week off schedule is helpful for older kids who are able to go longer periods of time without physically seeing the other parent. It also allows the child to have a set schedule and create consistency. Some families exercise a 3-2-2 schedule, which means that Parent A will have the child for three days, Parent B will have the child for two days, and Parent A will have the child for two days. This schedule then repeats. This is more common with younger children who benefit from seeing each parent on a more frequent basis. Still, other families elect not to have a set schedule at all and make the decision to work together on a regular basis. Determining which schedule works best for your family and your kids is tough. Our attorneys can help provide some insight into what works and what doesn’t so that you don’t end up creating more turmoil in your home than is necessary.

Can I change the child custody agreement?

If the court awarded primary residential responsibility to your ex and you don’t agree with it, it can be tricky to change. According to the North Dakota Century Code, “Unless agreed to in writing by the parties, or if included in the parenting plan, no motion for an order to modify primary residential responsibility may be made earlier than two years after the date of entry of an order establishing primary residential responsibility.” There are circumstances when this does not apply, such as willful denial or interference with parenting time, if the child is in an environment that is dangerous to their physical or emotional health, or if the primary residential responsibility of the child has changed to the other parent for a period of six months or longer. In plain terms, unless you and your ex agree to a change in writing, you are unable to ask the court for a review of your parenting schedule unless it has been two years since the last modification (or entry of the initial determination) or your situation meets the criteria mentioned above. If a change in custody is something you are interested in, one of our attorneys can help you determine the best timing.

What if I want to move out of state?

The North Dakota Century Code specifically addresses parties moving out of state. Here are a couple of scenarios: Scenario A – you have primary residential responsibility and you want to move out of state: Unless your ex will agree to this in writing, you will have to bring a motion before the court detailing why it is in the best interest of the child to relocate. This is determined by the Stout-Hawkinson test, which weighs advantages of the move, moving parent’s motive for the move, nonmoving parents’ motive for opposing the move, and potential negative impact on the relationship between noncustodial parent and child. If the court grants your motion, you are free to move. Scenario B – you and your ex have equal residential responsibility and you want to move out of state: Again, unless your ex will agree to this in writing, you will have to bring a motion before the court to change custody and to request to relocate. The motion to modify custody must meet the criteria of any other motion to modify custody as provided above, and the relocation request must also address the Stout-Hawkinson test as provided previously. If the motion prevails and you are allowed to change custody and move out of state with the child, custody will be modified from equal residential responsibility to primary residential responsibility, and you will be free to move. There are certain situations when a court order or the other parent’s consent in writing is not necessary. Call one of our family law attorneys to see if your situation fits.

For The Guidance You Need, Call Today

From beginning to end and everything in between, we are here to advocate for not only you but also for your child. To learn more about how we can help, call our office in Fargo at 701-864-3417 today. You can also fill out our contact form online. We serve clients throughout the Red River Valley.