Dividing parental rights and responsibilities between two adults can be a challenging process. Even judges with years of experience may have a hard time setting terms that could work well for the family indefinitely.
North Dakota parents have the option of either cooperating with one another to create their own custody orders or asking a judge to set terms that are in the best interests of their children. There is an expectation that parents subject to a North Dakota custody order should follow the terms outlined in the document. A custody order can divide both overall parenting time and the authority to make decisions for the children about everything from religious observances to education.
Sometimes, parents realize that their custody order no longer effectively meets the needs of the family. They may then have the option of going back to court in pursuit of a custody modification. When is a custody modification possible in North Dakota?
When parents agree on the need for change
The fastest and easiest path to a custody modification involves parental cooperation. When the adults in the family both agree that the existing custody order doesn’t work well for the family, they can potentially reach an agreement about the right terms for their family. Changes in schedule or in the health of family members can potentially prompt revisions to an existing custody order. Parents who cooperate can file paperwork seeking an uncontested modification. A judge can review and potentially approve the terms that they set with one another.
When there is a significant change in the situation
North Dakota state statutes are not particularly clear about when one parent can ask for a custody modification without the support of the other. They require a prima facie case for a modification, but the law does not establish a specific standard. People generally need to refer to case law and prior court rulings in North Dakota to validate whether or not their circumstances meet the standard necessary for a contested modification.
The parent proposing the change files paperwork with the family courts. The other parent has the ability to challenge the suggestions made by that parent. A judge then reviews the situation and decides what they think would be in the best interests of the children. They may modify the custody order as requested or refuse the modification request. Those who understand the way that judges approach these matters may have an easier time developing their legal case in a convincing manner.
Cooperating with a co-parent or preparing for litigation can potentially lead to significant changes to a North Dakota custody order.