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Legal Information: North Dakota


Laws current as of
December 28, 2023

Can a nonparent get custody or visitation?

North Dakota law assumes that a parent’s decision about allowing contact or not allowing contact between his/her child and a nonparent is in the best interest of the child.1 However, a judge can order custody or visitation to a nonparent, even if the parent disagrees, as long as the nonparent proves that such an order is in the best interest of the child and proves any of the following:

  • s/he is a “consistent caretaker” for the child; or
  • s/he has a “substantial relationship” with the child to the point where denial of contact would result in harm to the child.2

A judge will consider a nonparent to be a consistent caretaker if s/he did all of the following without expecting any payment:

  • lived with the child for twelve months or more, unless the judge finds good reason to accept a shorter period;
  • regularly took care of the child;
  • made day-to-day decisions about the child on his/her own or with the person who had physical custody of the child; and
  • established a “bonded and dependent” relationship with the child, either with the consent of the parent, or without the parent’s consent if the parent is not willing or able to function as a parent.3

A judge will consider a nonparent to have a substantial relationship with the child if the nonparent has a significant emotional bond with the child and either of the following are true:

  • the nonparent is related to the child by blood or law; or
  • the nonparent formed a relationship with the child without the expectation of payment.4

1 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-09.4-04
2 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-09.4-03(1)
3 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-09.4-03(2)
4 N.D. Cent. Code § 14-09.4-03(3)