North Dakota law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child. 

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In North Dakota, a parenting plan must contain specific provisions, including a parenting schedule. Parents are encouraged to negotiate a voluntary parenting plan before getting the court involved.

If they cannot agree, mediation (a dispute resolution process) may be ordered. A parenting coordinator may also be appointed to help craft a voluntary plan. If the parents still cannot agree, the court will assign custody.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

North Dakota courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child.  These factors include:

  • The depth and quality of the parent-child relationship,
  • The parents’ ability to provide adequate shelter, food, medical care, and a safe environment,
  • The physical and mental health of the child and parents,
  • The stability of the child’s home environment,
  • The child’s connection to his or her home, school, and community,
  • The parents’ conduct and moral fitness,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse,
  • The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate), and
  • Any other relevant factors.

A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem or parenting investigator may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests. 

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the parenting plan and divorce order are approved, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan. 

Should I Contact a North Dakota Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.