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Parenting Time (Visitation)

Generally, parenting time compassess all the time a non-custodial parent has with his or her children. Parenting time is the updated version of the term “visitation,” the outdated term North Dakota statutes used to call that time, and is a term many people still use.

In North Dakota, parenting time can be determined one of two ways: 1) by a judge; or 2) by the parties’ agreement.

Courts encourage families to resolve parenting time disagreements through mediation or direct negotiation. Duking it out in court is very expensive and often damages parenting relationships.

Establishing a "reasonable" parenting schedule and guideline should be a priority for both parents. Both must cooperate and be flexible for the kids’ sake. North Dakota courts today want parenting time orders to include specific and detailed schedules rather than loose references to "reasonable" or "liberal" visitation. A fixed visitation schedule helps avoid future and unforeseen complications.

If the parties can’t agree on a schedule, the court will impose one based on its view of the best interests of the children. The “best interests of the child” are articulated through a number of factors, all written into North Dakota law.

Courts can only deny or restrict parenting time if there is persuasive evidence it won’t serve a child’s best interests. If the court finds a sufficient danger or risk exists—for example, the non-custodial parent has committed domestic violence or has active chemical dependency problems—it may restrict parenting time as to the time, place, or duration. It might even require supervision. Only as a last resort will the court deny parenting time entirely.

Like residential responsibility, parenting time is modifiable by the parties’ agreement or by court order. Parenting time may be modified when the parties’ or the kids’ circumstances change.

Common Questions About North Dakota Parenting Time Laws

What is an example of a “boilerplate” schedule the Court may award if my ex-partner and I cannot agree on one?

  • Alternating weekends with the non-primary parent from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
  • One evening visit per week with the non-primary parent (generally not an overnight visit).
  • Alternating holiday schedule including New Year's Day, Easter Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July Weekend, Thanksgiving Day or Weekend, half of the Christmas holiday.
  • Extended Summer Visitation ranging anywhere from one week to six weeks with the non-primary parent.

Our family’s circumstances have changed since the court’s original decision.  Can our parenting time schedule be changed, too?

Yes!  Court orders can be changed either through a judge’s order or by the parties’ agreement.  Courts will modify parenting plans if the moving party can demonstrate a change of circumstances since entry of the last order, if a change is in the child’s best interests.

Additional Parenting Time Questions & Answers

  1. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and child and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance.
  2. The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment.
  3. The child's developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs, both in the present and in the future.
  4. The sufficiency and stability of each parent's home environment, the impact of extended family, the length of time the child has lived in each parent's home, and the desirability of maintaining continuity in the child's home and community.
  5. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.
  6. The moral fitness of the parents, as that fitness impacts the child.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parents, as that health impacts the child.
  8. The home, school, and community records of the child and the potential effect of any change.
  9. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a child is of sufficient maturity to make a sound judgment, the court may give substantial weight to the preference of the mature child. The court also shall give due consideration to other factors that may have affected the child's preference, including whether the child's preference was based on undesirable or improper influences.
  10. Evidence of domestic violence. In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence. If the court finds credible evidence that domestic violence has occurred, and there exists one incident of domestic violence which resulted in serious bodily injury or involved the use of a dangerous weapon or there exists a pattern of domestic violence within a reasonable time proximate to the proceeding, this combination creates a rebuttable presumption that a parent who has perpetrated domestic violence may not be awarded residential responsibility for the child. This presumption may be overcome only by clear and convincing evidence that the best interests of the child require that parent have residential responsibility. The court shall cite specific findings of fact to show that the residential responsibility best protects the child and the parent or other family or household member who is the victim of domestic violence. If necessary to protect the welfare of the child, residential responsibility for a child may be awarded to a suitable third person, provided that the person would not allow access to a violent parent except as ordered by the court. If the court awards residential responsibility to a third person, the court shall give priority to the child's nearest suitable adult relative. The fact that the abused parent suffers from the effects of the abuse may not be grounds for denying that parent residential responsibility. As used in this subdivision, "domestic violence" means domestic violence as defined in section 14-07.1-01. A court may consider, but is not bound by, a finding of domestic violence in another proceeding under chapter 14-07.1.
  11. The interaction and interrelationship, or the potential for interaction and interrelationship, of the child with any person who resides in, is present, or frequents the household of a parent and who may significantly affect the child's best interests. The court shall consider that person's history of inflicting, or tendency to inflict, physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault, on other persons.
  12. The making of false allegations not made in good faith, by one parent against the other, of harm to a child as defined in section 50-25.1-02.
  13. Any other factors considered by the court to be relevant to a particular parental rights and responsibilities dispute.
  • Alternating weekends with the non-primary parent from Friday evening to Sunday evening.
  • One evening visit per week with the non-primary parent (generally not an overnight visit).
  • Alternating holiday schedule including New Year's Day, Easter Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July Weekend, Thanksgiving Day or Weekend, half of the Christmas holiday.
  • Extended Summer Visitation ranging anywhere from one week to six weeks with the non-primary parent.

Our office uses special calendaring software. Among other things, this software allows us to print out, in calendar form, every parenting time scheme imaginable. Accordingly, we can now provide our clients a color-coded calendar for the entire year (or beyond) showing when the children will be with each parent. The calendar includes start and end times for regular holiday and summer parenting times. Each parent can simply post the calendar on his or her fridge and both will know exactly when the children will be with mom and when they will be with dad. The calendar can also be used as a journal to record parenting time events, good or bad, as they occur. Our fee for providing this service is quite reasonable.

One idea is to structure a parenting time schedule requiring exchanges to occur at natural transition points during the day, such as having the other parent pick up the children from school or daycare, rather than from your home.  Another is to use Rainbow Bridge Safe Exchange/Visitation Center, which offers a positive, safe, child friendly and neutral site where children and parents can be assured a supervised visitation or exchange will be safe and conflict free. All services provided by Rainbow Bridge are confidential. Rainbow Bridge is located at 715 North 11th Street, Suite 101, in Moorhead, Minnesota. You can reach Rainbow Bridge at (218) 299-7694 or 1 (800) 452-3646, ext. 7694.

Yes!  Court orders can be changed either through a Judge’s order or by the parties’ agreement.  Courts will modify parenting plans if the moving party can demonstrate a change of circumstances since entry of the last order, and if a change is in the child’s best interests.

Most likely, yes!  A parent wrongfully deprived of their parenting time will sometimes be awarded “compensatory” (make up) time.  In addition, a parent who wrongfully obstructs the other’s parenting time can be found “in contempt” and be punished for it.  It is very important to document your attempts to exercise your parenting time to prove the denied time (e.g. text messages or emails).

Yes. Sometimes. Both North Dakota and Minnesota allow grandparents to obtain a Court Order allowing reasonable visitation with grandchildren. The grandparents do have a burden of proof, though. The grandparents must prove that visitation (1) will be in the best interests of the children and (2) will not interfere with the relationship between the children and their parents. The Courts generally believe that children benefit from a relationship with extended family members. Accordingly, they are usually receptive to a grandparent's request for visitation.