North Dakota Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

How do I make a North Dakota parenting plan / child custody agreement?

You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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How can the North Dakota laws help me make a better parenting plan?

If you use the law as a tool when creating your parenting plan, it should prove to be an effective way of having a successful outcome in court. Having an understanding of the law is important when creating a parenting plan in the State of North Dakota.

The laws pertaining to child custody, visitation, and support can be found in Title 14, (Domestic Relations and Persons), of the North Dakota Century Code.

Title 14 contains definitions for some of the terms used in the section and in court documents and proceedings, defines the factors the court considers when ruling on child custody issues, and explains some of the procedures the court follows.

In North Dakota, do I have to make my own parenting plan / agreement?

Yes. In the State of North Dakota, the court requires all couples involved in child custody proceedings to submit a parenting plan to the court.

The parenting plan, once approved by the court, will become a living document and contract that both of you will be required to adhere to.

Disagreements and conflict may be avoided by addressing as many issues as you can think of and working together to reach an agreement on those issues now.

In North Dakota, is there a certain format I need to use for my plan?

Although the State Bar Association of North Dakota has a model parenting plan that is available for public use, you are free to create your parenting plan in a different format.

This will allow you to include any provisions you would like to add and you will have enough space to write as much as you would like.

What are some of the terms I should know before making my plan?

Chapter 14-09-00.1 begins with some important definitions that you should know for an agreement.

Understanding all of this terminology will help you craft a clear document where each parent's responsibilities and rights are plainly laid out.

Here are some phrases and the definitions that you will use in your agreement:

  • Decision-making responsibility: The responsibility to make decisions concerning the child. The term can refer to decisions on all issues or specific issues, but not child support issues.
  • Parental rights and responsibilities: All of the rights and responsibilities that a parent has concerning the parent's child.
  • Parenting plan: A written plan describing each parent's rights and responsibilities.
  • Parenting schedule: The schedule of when the child is in the care of each parent.
  • Primary residential responsibility: A parent with more than fifty percent of the residential responsibility.
  • Residential responsibility: A parent's responsibility to provide a home for the child.

These definitions and terms give a broad outline of what to put in your North Dakota parenting plan / custody agreement. Your agreement needs to be a parenting plan that describes each parent's rights and responsibilities concerning your child after you are no longer together.

What do I need to include in my North Dakota parenting plan?

Regardless of the format, you must include the following elements in your plan:

  • The designation of the primary residence of the child, for legal and educational purposes.
  • A statement defining the custody, (residential responsibility), of the child.
  • A delegation of decision-making authority on important matters, such as the child's education, religious upbringing, medical care, etc.
  • Stipulations that facilitate the sharing of and access to important information regarding the child.
  • A parenting time schedule that includes a residential schedule, a holiday schedule, and a vacation schedule.
  • Provisions for the transportation and exchange of the child.
  • Procedures for periodically reviewing the parenting plan and making adjustments to it, as needed.
  • A method for dispute resolution should the parents find themselves in conflict in the future.

When creating your parenting plan, you may include as many details as you would like. In fact, the more details your plan contains, the more effective it will be.

Some additional issues you may wish to address are the costs of transportation between exchanges, the costs of extracurricular activities, parental involvement in extracurricular activities, daycare expenses, whether or not disciplinary action, such as being grounded, will carry over to the other parent's home during their parenting time, etc.

What if we are not able to agree on our North Dakota parenting plan?

If you are unable to agree on your parenting plan, the court will order you to attend mediation, at your own expense, in an attempt to resolve your parenting plan differences (NDCC § 14-09-1.02).

It is always better to voluntarily create your parenting plan, for if you are unable to do so, the court will hold a hearing in order to create a parenting plan and parenting time schedule for you (NDCC § 14-09.1.08).

Submitting a parenting plan is a court requirement, and you should try your hardest to set your differences aside and work together for the sake of your child. Start with the items you agree on, and take it from there.

Are there any reasons for not submitting a parenting plan / agreement?

In cases where abuse (either to the parent, the child, or both) has occurred, the court will not require the parties to attend mediation or jointly submit a parenting plan.

The court is very partial to protecting the health, well-being, and best interests of the child, and protecting the child and other parent from an abusive parent is a major concern of the court.

In North Dakota, what does the court consider in custody matters plan?

The court bases custody decisions on the child's best interests, and considers and evaluates many factors when determining the best interests of a child.

Chapter 14-09-06.2 has a list of factors that the court evaluates when considering what is best for the child:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
  • The ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance
  • The capacity of each parent to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment
  • The child's developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs in the present and the future
  • The sufficiency and stability of each parent's home environment, the length of time the child has lived in each parent's home, the desirability of maintaining the child's current home, and the impact of extended family
  • The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage the child to have a close and continuing relationship with the other parent
  • The moral fitness of the parents, as it impacts the child
  • The mental and physical health of the parents as it impacts the child
  • The home, school, and community records of the child and the potential effect of any change
  • The preference of the child if the child is found to have sufficient maturity to make a sound judgment
  • If there has been any evidence or history of domestic violence
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with any person who resides in or frequently visits the household of a parent
  • The making of false allegations, not made in good faith, by one parent against the other, of harm to the child

These are only some of the factors that you need to consider when making your agreement.

You need to really think about your child's personality and the unique needs that your child has. If you do that, and if you follow the above guidelines from the North Dakota law, you will be able to make a good agreement for your custody situation.

Considering these factors, and the law, when creating your North Dakota parenting plan will help you create a parenting plan the judge will approve and that will serve the needs of your child as your child grows to adulthood.

The top ten cities in North Dakota (by population, US Census estimate, 2007) are: Fargo, Bismark, Grand Forks, Minot, West Fargo, Mandan, Dickinson, Jamestown, Williston, Wahpeton.

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