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.
Once the report has been completed, the court will mail it to the counsel representing the parents and to any party who has counsel in the case a minimum of 30 days prior to the hearing. The investigator will provide the counsel with data and reports as to how the conclusions were made. The investigator can be called for cross-examination when there is a hearing. The costs for the investigation will be ordered for either or both parties unless they are indigent. The county will then pay the costs of the investigation.
The best interests of the child are paramount in any custody case and if one or both parties who are vying for custody wants to have an investigation, the court can allow for this to be done. There are many reasons why this might be the case. Regardless, during a child custody dispute, if an investigation is a way to help the process along and settle the matter with as little rancor as possible, it is a wise step to move forward with it. Before seeking such a step, it is imperative to have legal advice from an experienced attorney. A law firm that specializes in family law and child custody should be called for help in any case whether it is contentious or amicable.