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Fargo Family Law Blog

Are marital agreements legally enforceable?

Much has been said about premarital agreements and the benefits of entering into one before a couple gets married. Couples can peacefully and amicably decide in advance how to divide the property and assets should the wedding not withstand the test of time. However, many North Dakota residents may find that such a practical and unromantic conversation kills the marriage fervor and skip having the discussion at the cost of losing their share in a family business or inheriting the spouse's debt. One way to avoid this is by entering into a post-marital agreement, a document that is gaining popularity across the country.

Laws surrounding post-marital agreements are new in North Dakota, coming into force in 2013. But once enacted, the law requires that both parties must enter into the document voluntarily and knowingly. The document cannot be procured as a result of duress and adequate financial disclosure must be provided otherwise the document could be deemed unenforceable.

Maybe mediation is not right for your divorce

One of the first things you may have done after getting married – or maybe even before you married – was to open a joint checking account. After that, you probably bought some furniture, a car and maybe even a house. If you have children together, those little ones solidified your bond even more. However, those many things in common may not have solidified your relationship.

If you and your spouse are moving toward divorce, you may be weighing your options. Beyond traditional litigated divorce, you can choose alternative dispute resolution. There are pros and cons to the different methods of divorce, and you may have heard the many benefits of mediation. More North Dakota couples are reaching satisfying divorce settlements through mediation. However, this method is not best for everyone.

Unmarried couples and their rights towards children

Family law across the country, including in Fargo, tends to favor marries couples who have children. However, this does not mean that unmarried couples who have children, biological or adopted, have no rights under the law.

Even where the parents are not married to one another, they should ensure that both of their names are included on the birth certificate, giving both parents legal rights such as child custody, and responsibilities such as child support. The presumption that the father is the legal father of the child is thrown out the window when the couple is married, which is why fathers also have to sign an affidavit acknowledging their paternity. If this is not done at the time of birth, names can be added on the birth certificate at a later time. Adding the parent's name to the birth certificate also ensures that children become eligible to receive their parent's government benefits, such as social security or governmental pension.

Do you find yourself competing with your co-parent?

Despite the fact that part of you still holds resentment, hurt and anger against your former spouse, you made the conscious decision to set aside those feelings in order to continue raising your children together as co-parents. You wanted, and still want, to make sure that your children thrive in spite of the divorce.

Even so, you may feel as though your best intentions are falling short. You may find yourself competing with your co-parent and can't seem to stop. Perhaps it would help to find a way to change your mindset in order to move past those inclinations and get back on track to providing your children the best version of you as a parent.

Where does summer camp fit into child support?

In North Dakota, as in other jurisdictions around the country, there is an obligation on parents to support their children, both emotionally and financially, regardless of whether they are married to one another. This means financial obligations continue even after the couple gets a divorce from one another. There are specific factors that are included in the calculation for child support payments, but the question that might be coming to many parents minds during the summer months is: who pays for summer camp?

The noncustodial parent is generally responsible for making child support payments to the other parent, the parent with physical custody. While child support statutes cover a wide range of areas, such as medical expenses, school fees, entertainment and extracurricular activities, if a child support agreement does not expressly cover summer camp arrangements, parents may find themselves wading into grey area.

How should you approach a child support dispute?

A divorce can be full of issues for North Dakota residents. From property division to child custody, many divorces can involve complex and contentious disputes. Child support can be a tricky issue because this involves a financial commitment that could potentially last for years after the divorce is finalized.

How should you approach a child support dispute? Well, for starters, the nature of the dispute should be analyzed thoroughly. Is the dispute occurring during a divorce in terms of the amount that the court will order? Is it occurring during mediation, as the parties attempt to reach an agreement on what amount of child support is fair and adequate? Or, is the dispute occurring after the divorce has been finalized, due to a change in financial circumstances?

Is parental alienation harming your parental rights?

As a North Dakota parent, one of the most important things you can do is to take definitive steps to protect your relationship with your children after a divorce. One way you can do this is by working diligently to protect your parental rights and shield your kids from any adverse effects caused by the end of your marriage.

You understand the importance of protecting your relationship with your kids, but this can be difficult to do if the other parent is attempting to undermine your rights through parental alienation. You have the right to fight back and take whatever steps are necessary to protect your children and preserve your role as an active and loving parent. 

Creative solutions to alimony issues in a divorce

Many North Dakota residents have likely heard that the new federal tax law has some changes that will impact many people in the coming years, particularly those who are divorcing. The big change: for divorces that occur after January 1, 2019, alimony payments will no longer be deductible by the payor and will no longer be taxed as income for federal tax purposes by the payee.

This means that divorcing couples now have less than six months to conclude the process and get alimony payments locked in to avoid this major shift in tax consequences. For some couples, that means that it will be time to get creative about how to address alimony issues in the divorce process.

What makes a strong parenting plan?

Child custody is a complex issue, but in many cases, North Dakota parents are able to resolve their custody and visitation matters without the intervention of the court. If you are hoping to settle your divorce out of court and draft a parenting plan on your own, there are various things you would be wise to consider in order to ensure you have a strong and workable plan.

A parenting plan will be the foundation of your custody order. The document specifically details how you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will share parenting time. The terms of your plan will influence your family for years to come, and you would be wise to keep a clear view of the future and not allow temporary emotions to motivate you as you consider your agreement.

Can an order for child support be changed or modified?

North Dakotans who are considering a divorce often want to know if an order directing the payment of child support can be changed or modified. The answer is "sometimes," depending upon individual circumstances. The family law system in North Dakota is predicated, in part, on the understanding that life changes can occur suddenly and drastically. An order for child support can seem reasonable when it was initially signed by the court, but a few years later, the same order might be rendered unreasonable by illness, job loss or other major life changes.

An order for child support is an order of the court and can only be changed by a judge. If a divorced couple can agree on reasonable changes to the order, a judge will usually sign an order reflecting the changes set forth in the agreement. If, however, the parents cannot reach such an agreement, a court hearing may be necessary.

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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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