What factors are involved in child custody decisions?

If you are facing divorce, you are probably wondering how the court will decide matters pertaining to the custody of your children. The same applies if you are already divorced but need to modify the custody agreement that is in place.

In the state of North Dakota, a judge will always begin by taking into account the best interests of the children.

Deciding factors

Like all courts, custody decisions in North Dakota will be determined using the “best interests” framework. For example, how do the children get along with each parent? How are the relationships among the siblings? How have they reacted to the divorce and how well will are they adjusting? The children’s wishes will be considered along with those of each parent.

Joint custody

The judge could award joint physical custody, which speaks to where and with whom the child will reside. Joint legal custody could also be awarded. This refers to making important decisions for the children concerning such matters as education, medical care and religious upbringing. The court will also assess the moral character of both parents and determine their fitness to assume responsibility of the children. Among the main considerations will be how well the two adults are likely to work together on behalf of their kids. If the divorce is acrimonious, or if there is a background of domestic violence, joint custody may not be awarded. It will be given instead to the most responsible parent.

The parenting agreement

An attorney experienced in family law will tell you that you and your soon-to-be ex can develop your own parenting plan and present it to the court for review. If you can work out an agreement that outlines responsibilities and works according to everyone’s schedule, it will go a long way toward assuring the judge that the two of you can handle joint custody going forward.

Change happens

Your ability to work out problems together will also be important if, down the road, a change in circumstances indicates that modification to your child custody agreement is in order. Once again, the judge will consider your request in light of the best interests of your children.

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