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Fargo Family Law Blog

Who must consent for a child to be adopted in North Dakota?

For prospective North Dakota parents who would like to expand their family by adopting a child, it is a worthwhile and positive endeavor. There are many children who are looking for a home and adoption provides mutual benefit for adoptive parent and adopted child. However, it is important to understand that the law is vigilant about protecting children and has certain requirements before a person can adopt.

Knowing these requirements is important before even starting the process so all the issues can be hashed out and the process is not delayed or denied. There are circumstances where consent is not needed from a parent such as when the parent deserted a child or the child was in another's custody and the parent did not communicate with the child or did not give the child care and support based on the law.

Can there be a custody investigation during a custody dispute?

In a child custody proceeding, while it is preferable for all North Dakota parties - including the child - that the case go smoothly and the best interests of the child take precedence, it is unavoidable that there will be disagreements that cannot be settled through negotiation. When there is this level of child custody dispute and one or both parties want an investigation and report as to parental rights and responsibilities, the courts can order that this be done. Understanding the law for custody investigations and reports and what it entails is imperative for the party that requests it and the other party.

The court will name a person or agency to investigate the case and make the report. It will name an entity it deems qualified to move forward with it. Once the investigator is named, it is possible to consult with anyone who might have pertinent information regarding the child and any arrangements regarding parenting rights and responsibilities. This individual, upon court order, can refer the child to a professional for an examination and diagnosis.

What are your child custody options?

Divorce is difficult. Divorce with children is even more so. You want to do what is best for your kids, but you and your soon-to-be ex may not agree on what that is. There are several different child custody options open to North Dakota residents. You and your spouse can try to negotiate a custody arrangement based on these options or a judge can decide how your custody plan will work.

So, what are the available custody options? There are five: sole legal custody, joint legal custody, sole physical custody, joint physical custody and visitation. How is each of these different?

When does a paternity action matter?

Most North Dakota fathers are involved, supportive and loving participants in the lives of their children. Divorce and other circumstances can make it difficult for fathers to maintain their roles in the lives of their kids, and often, they feel helpless and unsure of the legal options available. Fathers have the right to fight for their parental rights and access to their kids. 

In some cases, a paternity action may be necessary in order to clearly establish the role of a father in the lives of his children. If you were not married to the mother when your children were born or the mother disputes that you are the biological father, you may need to take legal action. Taking specific legal steps may be the only way for you to secure visitation and possibly custody rights.

Parents must meet the child's medical needs after divorce

North Dakotans understand that having children carries with it many responsibilities. These responsibilities do not simply end when the couple's marriage ends and they divorce. The transition from a family unit to one in which the parties are living separately with the child residing with one and visiting the other based on a schedule is a difficult one. Making it work can be complicated and part of that is making certain that the best interests of the child are served.

A key aspect of that is ensuring the child's medical needs are met. Understanding how medical support falls into the category of child support is integral to a case. When there is a court order for a parent to pay child support, it will have health insurance as part of the order. This is a matter of law. When the child support obligation is determined, there will be a medical support obligation too. In general, the parent who is receiving support must have health insurance if it is available and it is low cost or no cost. The parent who is paying child support must provide the coverage under those same terms.

January and the rise of new divorce filings

Many people start off the New Year seeking a fresh start for many reasons. From losing weight to achieving new career goals, the start of a new calendar year offers many the opportunity for a fresh beginning. This can apply to relationships as well, and many people choose the first months of the year to file for divorce. 

As you may know, divorce filings spike at the beginning of each New Year. There are many reasons for this, and if you believe this is the right course of action for you in January, the time to start preparing is now. There are significant benefits to looking ahead and preparing for divorce, and it may be helpful to start by examining why you want to make this decision.

What should I know about enforcing prenuptial agreements?

When some North Dakota couples decide to get married, there are concerns about personal property and finances that spark the signing of prenuptial agreements. In many instances, this is a protective device that will never be an issue because the marriage works and they remain together. For some, the end of a marriage is unavoidable and a divorce is necessary. That is when the prenuptial agreement comes into focus. Understanding when and if it will be enforced is important to both parties.

For a party who is claiming that a prenuptial agreement is unenforceable, the following must be proven: the party consented to it involuntarily or because they were under duress; he or she did not have independent legal representation; there was no legal representation and the person had no notice that there was a waiver of rights or a clear explanation regarding marital rights or obligations that would be modified or waived by signing the agreement; the party was not given sufficient financial disclosure prior to signing.

What does the court consider with best interests of the child?

With North Dakota child custody cases and arguments over visitation rights, there are many considerations that the court will assess as all-important decisions are made. Since the child is often caught in the middle of a custody dispute and there are lingering effects from the issues that sparked the couple to part ways, it is important to focus on the child's needs. The best interests of the child are critical and there are numerous factors that the court will weigh.

Children require emotional care with the parent. The ability of the parents to provide this will be imperative. The parents must provide the child's basic needs including food, clothes, a safe place to live, and medical coverage. Children must be assisted in proper development and those needs must be met. The environment in which the child lives must be safe and stable. Part of that will be the extended family, who will be around the children and the state of the community.

What should you know about property division in a divorce?

North Dakota residents who are going through the turbulent time of the end of a marriage and are dealing with a divorce will understand the emotional and personal impact life changes will have. While children, custody and visitation will take precedence, financial matters cannot be ignored. Oftentimes, people will think of spousal support from the perspective of a paying former spouse and a receiving former spouse. Another issue that is financial and could have far-reaching ramifications is property division. Understanding what the law says about property division can help to understand and prepare for how it will affect the case. When there is a divorce, debts will also be divided.

When the couple is granted its divorce, there will be an equitable distribution between the parties. Some property is subject to federal law when there is division and that must be accounted for. The court will determine a date for valuation and this date must be just and equitable. This is the date in which the summons for the action of divorce or separation was made or the date when the couple had its last separation - whichever happened first.

The basics of parental relocation

After a North Dakota divorce, the living arrangements for the parent with residential responsibility of children from the marriage might change based on the circumstances. This can impact visitation plans and other issues that could cause a dispute between the parties. For parents who are either considering a parental relocation or are concerned about how it will affect their ability to see their children, understanding the basics of what the state law says about relocation is key. This will be imperative when trying to navigate the situation.

If a parent has been given primary residential custody and decides to relocate to a different state, there are two ways in which he or she can do so: they can have an agreement with the other parent if the other parent has parenting time; or they can seek an order to move from a district court in North Dakota. There will be no requirement to get such an order in the following circumstances: if the other parent has failed to exercise his or her right to parenting time for one year; or the other parent has left North Dakota and moved to another state that is more than 50 miles away from the residence of the parent who has primary residential custody.

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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