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Fargo Family Law Blog

Changing a North Dakota divorce judgment after it is entered

The road to divorce in North Dakota is never smooth or free from unexpected bumps. However, even the bumpiest road can produce a divorce decree that fairly resolves all issues between the parties, including spousal maintenance, property division and, if necessary child support and custody. Some divorces, however, end badly, with one or both ex-spouses feeling that the court did not understand their arguments or hear their evidence. What can be done?

The first option is appealing the judgment to the North Dakota Supreme Court. This option is generally the most expensive. Another factor to consider is the fact that oftentimes appeals from divorce judgments fail. The Supreme Court is very unlikely to find that the there was an error in the judge's decision that warrants a reversal.

Review and adjustment of child support orders in North Dakota

Most child support orders in North Dakota are based upon the financial situation and income of the payor spouse. Contrary to the expectation of many parents, the court's order for child support is not immutable. If the financial conditions of the payor spouse change, the terms of the child support may also change.

The North Dakota Department of Human Services, through its Child Support Agency, will generally review child support orders every 18 months after the order has been entered. Either parent may submit a request for review. Parents who share custody must complete and submit a Financial Affidavit and Contact Information form to Child Support Services at the same time as the request for review is submitted.

Discussing your child's request to move in with your ex

When your teen or pre-teen recently approached you with the request to move in with your ex, you may have felt shocked, perhaps even betrayed. After all, you have worked so hard to maintain as stable a home life as possible since the divorce, and now your child wants to leave.

While it may seem like a devastating blow, it is probably something you have expected, if you are honest with yourself. The way you handle this situation could be a turning point in your relationship with your child.

Paternity and child support

The policy behind child support payments comes from the idea that both parents have a responsibility to care for their child. When both parents live with their children, the law presumes they are providing their children with food, clothing, shelter and their other needs, but if the parents don't live together because they have divorced, or were never married, the law requires the non-custodial parent to provide funds to care for each child.

While this might seem like a personal matter, the state has an interest in all children getting the care they need. When a parent fails to provide for a child, the state must step in to provide public benefits to the child. Therefore, it's in the state's interest to make sure that parents are living up to their child support obligations.

Child custody and residential responsibility

Whether they are going through a divorce or were never married, many North Dakota parents don't know where to begin with the process of establishing child custody. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the term itself.

Since 2009, North Dakota courts have used the term "residential responsibility" for the legal concept other states call child custody, and the term "parenting time" for the concept known elsewhere as visitation.

The final steps of your divorce

No matter how amicably your divorce is progressing, you may still be feeling emotional and confused. In fact, you may be ready to move on as quickly as possible to put aside the mistakes and regrets of the past.

While you understand that the marriage is not legally dissolved until the judge signs the divorce decree, what you may not realize is that a divorce decree does not necessarily tie up all the loose ends. You may still have some steps to take to bring closure to the process.

Requesting modifications to a child support order

It can be a struggle to keep up with child support payments under the best of times. After a job loss or another setback, it can be near impossible. Once a parent falls behind, the unpaid balance accumulates interest at a rapid rate, and it can turn into serious financial and legal trouble. Parents in this situation need help with a child support modification.

When deciding on child support orders, North Dakota courts base the dollar amount on the child's needs and the paying parent's ability to pay. Typically, the amount is set as a percentage of the paying parent's income at the time of the order. Depending on the custody arrangement, the court may set a child support amount for each parent. In any case, the order amount does not automatically change when a parent's income goes up or down. Instead, the North Dakota Child Support agency is supposed to review the order every 18 months and set the amount accordingly.

The road to adoption can be a rocky one

For a lawyer practicing family law, most cases involve negotiating the best ways to dissolve a marriage, divide property and split responsibility for raising children. Adoption is very different because it involves adding to a family. When all goes well, adoption leads to very happy results. Unfortunately, adopting a child is often an expensive and complicated process, with a lot of frustration and setbacks along the way.

Recently, a couple in the Fargo-Moorhead area talked to a local newspaper about their difficulties adopting a baby. After seeing an article about the same-sex married couple, a pregnant woman contacted them and said she was interested in giving them her baby for adoption.

When can I refuse my ex's scheduled parenting time?

You would not be the first parent to resent your ex's time with the children. In fact, each time your ex picks them up or you have to take them to his or her house, you may feel the emotions of worry, sorrow, anger and disappointment that a North Dakota family court awarded shared custody or visitation rights to your ex.

Perhaps you have even made excuses for not honoring your ex's visitation time. You may have called your ex at the last minute to say the children were sick or that you forgot about some schedule conflict. However, even if these were true, you were probably in violation of the court order, which can have serious legal ramifications, including jeopardizing your own custody of the children.

New tax law spells big changes for alimony

Millions of Americans were surprised this year when they saw their tax bills and realized that they were not going to get the refund they expected. This past tax day was the first since the new federal tax law went into effect, and the changes remain highly controversial. One change that has received somewhat less attention makes a big difference in divorce and alimony, and attorneys are trying to help their clients find ways to deal with it.

Starting for divorces completed this year, under the new law, paying spouses will no longer be able to deduct the cost of alimony the way they would deduct a business expense. Spouses receiving alimony no longer must report it as income.

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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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