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Fargo Family Law Blog

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.

Can a North Dakota prenuptial agreement be declared invalid?

Premarital agreements have become a common feature of North Dakota marriages. In fact, most family lawyers who practice in the state will encourage their clients to sign such an agreement if the circumstances are appropriate. What happens, though, if circumstances change or the agreement is discovered to be unfair or the result of fraud?

North Dakota has adopted the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act, a statute that is in effect in the majority of states. This statute specifies the formal requirements of a valid premarital agreement and the conditions that are necessary to enforce it. The first requirement is that the agreement be in writing and signed by both parties before the marriage occurs. A verbal premarital agreement or one that is lacking the signature of one of the parties is unenforceable. Very few agreements are not signed by both parties and these objections are rarely raised.

Has something impeded your ability to pay child support?

Like many North Dakota parents, you may have felt relieved when the court handed down your child-support ruling because you then had a set plan and could move on in life without a court battle. Hopefully, you understood the fact that the court was legally binding you to the order, meaning you had a legal obligation to fulfill it.  

Life rarely remains the same for very long, however. Perhaps your income may change, or your boss asks you to relocate. That could land you in a new location where the cost of living is significantly higher than where you lived when the court determined your child support payments. It's often possible to seek modification of a court order, provided you have just grounds to do so. It's helpful to tap into support resources to guide you through the modification process, and it can be stressful. 

Child support for single mothers

Child support is often considered one of the most important issues in a divorce proceeding. But, many women in North Dakota who never married are raising children by themselves. What about these single mothers who were never married to the child's father? Do they have a right to seek child support from the child's biological father?

The short answer is "yes," but the mother must go through what can be a lengthy and emotionally difficult legal process. A necessary first step is to identify the father. Some unwed fathers will admit to fathering the child, while others will steadfastly deny parentage. In the latter case, the mother may need to bring a paternity action to prove that the man is the father of the child in question. Our last post covered the mechanics of proving paternity, including the use of DNA tests. Once fatherhood has been established, the mother may need to begin a case to compel the father to pay support.

How to prepare when the court will rule on child custody terms

You love your children more than anything in the world. When a relationship comes to an end, you have to learn how to effectively co-parent moving forward. As you face divorce,  your main concern is the continued well-being of your children.

Many parents have the ability to work together on their own to come to custody terms that only need court approval. Unfortunately, this does not happen in every case. Though you may have attempted to discuss the issue of custody with your soon-to-be ex, you may have quickly realized that too much conflict existed between the two of you. As a result, your custody case must go through litigation.

Establishing paternity in North Dakota

Most men in North Dakota view fatherhood as a blessing and a significant obligation. Some men ignore any emotional attachment to a child and, instead, attempt to avoid their obligations to a child. For young mothers who are not married to the father of their child, formal legal proceedings may be needed to establish paternity of the child and to obtain child support and payment for medical care.

In some situations, paternity cannot be denied. Any child who is born during a marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage is presumed to be the child of the husband. A second method of establishing paternity is a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity by the father. The father must sign a form that has the legal effect of establishing the man as the child's legal father; once the form is signed, the father's name will be entered on the child's birth certificate.

The basics of North Dakota adoption

Adoption has benefited many North Dakota parents and children by placing the children in a loving family environment and providing parents with a child to shower with love. The process of adoption, however, can be lengthy, and at times, frustrating or, occasionally, disappointing. Anyone thinking of adopting a child in North Dakota should understand the process.

All adoptions in North Dakota are handled by three private agencies that have been licensed by the state. These agencies perform the necessary investigations and evaluations of both the child and its prospective parents. These agencies charge fees that range from $5,000 to $11,000 or more. Fees are much lower for children adopted from the state's foster care system. The services of a lawyer will be needed at some point to obtain court approval of the adoption, but these fees are usually modest.

The military has its own rules for dividing pensions in divorce

After spending years serving your country in the U.S. Armed Forces, you are well aware of the fact that the military has its own set of rules for many things. How your retirement is divided in a divorce is no exception.

Prior to 1982, state courts didn't have the jurisdiction to divide military pensions. In that year, Congress passed a law giving courts the jurisdiction they needed. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, a North Dakota court may divide the former military member's retirement as it sees fit. The court could award the full amount to the service member, or your spouse could receive a portion. 

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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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