Parenting Plans and Parenting Time

A parenting plan describes the child custody arrangement that you and your separating spouse will adhere to after a divorce. According to section 14-09-00.1 of the North Dakota Century Code, a parenting plan “describes each parent’s rights and responsibilities.” Section 14-09-30 elaborates on what such a plan must contain.

If you are filing for divorce in North Dakota, consider contacting Tracy Lyson, an experienced family law attorney in Fargo.

Minimum contents of a parenting plan:person-731144_1920

  • Decision making responsibility for routine and major decisions (e.g., education, health care);
  • Contact information (e.g., phone numbers, email addresses);
  • Legal residence of the child;
  • Residential responsibility, parenting time, and parenting schedule;
  • Transportation and exchange of the child;
  • Procedure for reviewing and adjusting the plan; and
  • Methods for resolving disputes.

A good parenting plan, however, should go above and beyond the legally required minimums. In the event that both parties cannot come to an agreement, the court may step in to develop a parenting plan directly, order mediation between the parties, or assign a parenting coordinator to facilitate the negotiations. Though the courts must make decisions based on the best interest of the child, they are not as familiar with the situation as the parents are. Therefore it is usually best for the parents to come up with a mutually agreed upon plan, rather than relying on a court-crafted parenting plan that may be more contentious to both parties in the long run. Once filed with the courts, a parenting plan is legally binding and either party may seek enforcement from the courts if the other party fails to stick to the plan.

As part of the parenting plan, the parties need to agree to “parenting time,” or “the time when the child is to be in the care of a parent.” The parent who has more than 50% of the residential responsibility of a child is sometimes called the “custodial parent,” and the parenting time a non-custodial parent spends with the child is also commonly known as “visitation.” The parenting schedule should address which days the child will spend with each parent. In addition to the regular weekday and weekend schedules during the school year, the parents should work out the time allocation for holidays, breaks, and vacations. Planning in detail ahead of time reduces miscommunication and potential for fighting, and helps provide a more stable environment for the child.

Changes to the parenting plan, including parenting time, should follow the agreed upon procedure. Although an experienced family law attorney can provide invaluable assistance when a dispute over parenting time arises, you can also represent yourself in court. Keep in mind, though, that failure to pay child support does not constitute justification for denying that parent visitation. If a court finds that a parent has been “willful and persistent” in denying visitation, that parent may need to pay the legal fees for settling the dispute.

Negotiating a workable parenting plan, and all its constituent parts, can be a daunting task. Contact the family law attorneys at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 so we can help you craft a solution that is best for your child.

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