Establishing Custody (Residential Responsibility) and Visitation (Parenting Time)
(In 2009, the North Dakota State Legislature changed the term Custody to Residential Responsibility and changed the term Visitation to Parenting Time.)
Parents who have never been married to each other may ask a North Dakota State District Court to establish residential responsibility and parenting time to their children.
This is called an action to establish Parenting Responsibilities.
There are two ways to establish parenting responsibilities in North Dakota:
- Filing a Complete Agreement Together (Uncontested Parenting Responsibilities): If both parents agree in writing on absolutely every issue, they complete all of the necessary settlement agreement paperwork together. After they’ve completed all of the necessary paperwork, they file it with the court. If the parents correctly file every document the court needs to establish parenting responsibilities, the final judgment is generally granted quickly and without a hearing.
- One Parent Starts the Action on Their Own (Contested Parenting Responsibilities): If the parents can’t agree on every issue, or if one of the parents can’t be located, one parent may start the action to establish parenting responsibilities on their own. If the parents aren’t able to reach a settlement of all issues after the action starts, the court schedules a trial. At the trial the judge or judicial referee decides the unresolved parenting responsibility issues. The time from start to finish largely depends on whether parent s can reach agreements and the court’s caseload.
Parties in an Action to Establish Parenting Responsibilities
The Plaintiff or Petitioner is the parent who starts the action.
The Defendant or Respondent is the parent who doesn’t start the action.
Residency Requirement for Establishing Parenting Responsibilities
A North Dakota State District Court can establish parenting responsibilities to a minor child when:
- North Dakota is the home state of the child on the date the parenting responsibilities action starts; or
- North Dakota was the home state of the child within six months before the date the parenting rights and responsibilities action started, and the child is absent from North Dakota but a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in North Dakota; or
- North Dakota isn't the home state, but a court of the child’s home state declined jurisdiction because North Dakota is the more appropriate forum, and:
- The child and the child's parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent, have a significant connection with North Dakota other than mere physical presence; and
- Substantial evidence is available in North Dakota concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships.
You Must Calculate Child Support
Unless a court has already ordered child support payments, you’re required to calculate child support in actions to establish parenting responsibilities. You must calculate child support even if you and the other parent have agreements between yourselves related to child support.
If you don’t want to establish child support as part of your action to establish parenting responsibilities, you still must complete the child support calculations. The judge or judicial referee decides whether it’s in the best interests of the children to waive, or stay, your child support payments.
If you plan to ask the judge or judicial referee to allow you to pay a different amount of child support than the child support calculations say, you must prove you meet one of the limited exceptions for paying a different amount. You must also prove paying a different amount is in the best interests of the children.
Forms and Guides for Establishing Parenting Responsibilities
Forms aren't available for every legal issue or circumstance. If you don't find a form that suits your circumstances on this website, the form isn't available through the North Dakota Legal Self Help Center.
You may need to create legal documents yourself. The General-Use forms in the District Court Civil Action Section of this website may be used as a starting point for creating your own legal documents.
Establishing Parenting Responsibilities Forms:
- Uncontested Parenting Responsibilities
- Both parents agree in writing to 100% of the establishing parenting responsibilities issues before filing with the District Court
Establishing Parenting Responsibilities Informational Guides:
- Contested Parenting Responsibilities for Plaintiff and Defendant
- No written agreement
- Includes formatting examples of a variety of establishing parenting responsibilities documents
- Motion for Default Parenting Responsibility Judgment – for Plaintiff
- Provides basic, step-by-step guide for making a motion for a default parenting responsibility judgment
- The Plaintiff may make a motion when the Defendant didn't answer the Summons and Complaint
- Includes formatting examples of common motion for default parenting responsibility judgment documents
- Doesn't include fillable forms
- Answer to Motion for Default Parenting Responsibility Judgment – for Defendant
- Provides basic, step-by-step guide for answering a motion for a default parenting responsibility judgment
- If the Defendant doesn't answer the motion, the court may grant the parenting responsibility judgment without the Defendant’s input
- Includes formatting examples of common answer to motion for default parenting responsibility judgment documents
- Doesn't include fillable forms
Selected Statutes (Laws) & Rules
Following are legal research starting points related to establishing parenting responsibilities. You may need to conduct additional legal research into your legal issue. See the Legal Research Section of this website.
- Chapter 14-09 of the North Dakota Century Code
- Chapter 14-14.1 of the North Dakota Century Code
- Rule 8.1 of the North Dakota Rules of Court
- Rule 8.2 of the North Dakota Rules of Court
- Rule 8.3.1 of the North Dakota Rules of Court
- Rule 8.4 of the North Dakota Rules of Court
- Rule 8.5 of the North Dakota Rules of Court
- The North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure
- The North Dakota Rules of Evidence
Following are other resources related to establishing parenting responsibilities proceedings that may be of interest.
If you don't understand any of this information, or if you have trouble filling out any of the forms located here, please see an attorney for help.
The information provided on and obtained from this site doesn't constitute the official record of the Court. This information is provided as a service to the general public. Any user of this information is hereby advised that it is being provided "as is". The information provided may be subject to errors or omissions. Visitors to this site agree that the Court isn't liable for errors or omissions of any of the information provided.
If you have a question relating to a case that is already filed please contact the clerk of court for the county.