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.
Essentially, the parent who lives with the child has residential responsibility. In many cases the parents divide residential responsibility between them. Typically, these parents negotiate a parenting plan to divide residential responsibility and then have it approved by the court.
In cases where the child lives with one parent all the time, the other parent almost always has a right to parenting time and will have some say in making decisions about the child’s education and other important issues. It’s important to note that the existence of a domestic violence protection order or disorderly conduct restraining order against one of the parents can greatly interfere with the ability to establish residential responsibility or parenting time rights.
In all cases related to the raising of children, North Dakota courts base their decisions upon their interpretation of the best interest of the child. Likewise, parents must put the best interests of their children above all other considerations in disputes over residential responsibility and parenting time.
That said, parents have rights and responsibilities. It’s important for parents to get help from a skilled family law attorney to protect their rights and their children.