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Understanding Child Custody in North Dakota

Explaining Child Custody in North Dakota

During a child custody case, some factors can ultimately affect the outcome you may be expecting after your divorce. Child custody cases are sensitive and complicated legal proceedings that can take weeks or even months to resolve between parents and the court.

In North Dakota, custody laws are intricate, and a judge is an important decision-maker while your case is open. Having an experienced family law attorney can make all of the difference in how a judge handles your side of the case.

Keep reading to learn more information about how child custody works in North Dakota.

Types of Custody in North Dakota

In North Dakota, there are two types of custody that you can work with your attorney to negotiate with your ex: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is where your children will spend most of their time as their primary residence — regularly. You and your ex can share physical custody, or you can have physical custody by yourself. These two distinctions in physical custody are called joint physical custody and sole physical custody.

Joint physical custody is when you and your ex share your child’s responsibilities and make significant decisions together. While this may sound ideal if you’re looking for a 50/50 split in custody with your ex, this does not mean your child will spend an equal amount of time with both parents. It’s normal for your child to potentially spend more time with one parent than the other, and the courts recognize this.

Sole physical custody is for if you have your child most of the time, your ex can have the right to schedule visitation with your kids. If you have sole physical custody of your child, you would be the custodial parent, and your ex would be their non-custodial parent. As a parent with sole physical custody, you would be the parent making significant decisions regarding your child’s education, health care, religious practices, daily activities, and more.

Legal Custody

Two categories fall under legal custody that you may have heard: sole legal custody and joint legal custody.

Sole legal custody means you are the parent who is responsible for making major decisions in your child’s life. This type of custody means you would decide on your child’s health care, where they will go to school, their daily activities, religion, and more.

Joint legal custody means that your child could still live with you primarily, but your ex would have a say in what happens in your child’s daily lives and share responsibilities. If you and your ex typically made decisions together, this type of custody would likely be a good fit for you and provide a sense of normalcy for your child.

Ultimately, a judge will grant custody based on what is in your child’s best interests.

A Child’s Best Interests

Like most states, North Dakota has a “best interests” factor that a judge will consider when deciding on which kind of custody you will get. What does it mean when determining what’s in the best interests of your child? The following factors can determine best interests:

  • Your current relationship and connection with your child.

  • How well you can provide basic necessities for your child.

  • Your financial situation and your ex’s financial situation.

  • Any history of being charged with a crime and the nature of the crime.

  • How far apart you and your ex live from each other.

  • Your ability to have time to spend with your child.

There are more factors that are considered and it depends on the judge you have for your case. A family law attorney would be essential in helping you fight for a favorable outcome in your case.

Let Our Child Custody Attorneys Help You

Having a reliable team of attorneys like ours at Circling Eagle Law that is familiar with the court system in Fargo can make all of the difference in your case.

Take the first step in your case by giving us a call today at (701) 401-7404 to schedule a consultation!


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