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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?

What does legal custody entail?

When a parent wants the ability to make important decisions for their child, he or she needs to have legal custody. A court may grant sole legal custody to one parent, meaning that the other parent will not have a say in things like medical care, schooling and religious upbringing -- among a million other decisions that come with raising a child. If you want to continue sharing in the decision-making process, you can ask for joint legal custody.

How does physical custody differ?

Parents who want their children to live with them need to obtain a physical custody order. Sole physical custody occurs when the children will live with just one parent the majority of the time. Joint physical custody is where children split time living with each parent.

Determining visitation

If a parent is not awarded physical custody of their children, he or she may request visitation. This is scheduled time for that parent to spend time with his or her kids. If a parent cannot always be physically present to visit with the kids, virtual visitation may be included in the visitation order. This allows parents and children to have structured time interacting via video-calls.

As shared custody arrangements tend to be the most beneficial for both parents and their children, the state prefers to award joint legal and physical custody when appropriate. Parents can negotiate the terms of such an arrangement so that it works for their family. In order to determine if shared custody is the best option, it is necessary to consider:

  • A child's age
  • The parent-child relationship
  • A child's wishes
  • Parental addiction issues
  • Available living arrangements

At the end of the day, a child custody arrangement needs to serve the best interests of the children. You know your kids best, so having you and your soon-to-be ex work out a custody plan is ideal. However, if you both cannot come to agreeable terms, a judge can look at the facts of the case and issue the custody order he or she thinks is appropriate. No matter how your custody plan comes to be, if needed, you may be able to change it down the line.

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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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