Analysis of North Dakota Custody Determinations

With great cooperation from the North Dakota Administrative Office of the Court, Leading Women for Shared Parenting obtained the raw data on custody determinations from January 2011 through mid-June of 2017. 

We analyzed the data, segregating it by County and by North Dakota Judicial District.  To the best of our knowledge,  similar analysis has not been previously completed by the Court, Child Support Office, State Bar Association of North Dakota (SBAND), Family Law Task Force, the Legislature, or the Media.

We compared statewide Custody Determinations (to wife, husband or shared parenting) on a timeline with the 2014 Shared Parenting ballot initiative and the 2016 Shared Parenting Legislative Bill. We then compared custody determinations by County to the race, family structure, family income and education in the eight largest Counties in North Dakota. 

Summary of Findings:

Despite North Dakota having a largely homogeneous population, the custody determinations between Counties varied significantly. The variances remained not only between Counties separated by great distance, but also between Counties which border one another or were part of the same Senate District. The data does not present a picture of uniform justice.

Of interest, North Dakota houses two Air Force Bases. Previous investigations have found SBAND communications that included unfavorable characterization of military children, so we did an analysis of Counties, which are home to Minot Air Force Base and Grand Forks Air Force Base against the statewide custodial averages. The results were not favorable.

We also reviewed the roster of the Administrative Office of the Courts of those registered to serve as a Parent Investigator, Guardian ad Litem, or Parent Coordinator in North Dakota to determine the gender of those registered, as well as the homogeneity of those practicing in multiple Judicial Districts. 

We provide two presentations. The first is the complete analysis of each of North Dakota’s eight largest Counties and every Judicial District across the state. Understanding few journalists or members of the public would read the entire 85 page presentation, we assembled the highlights in a second presentation, a 17 page summary. We’ve included our recommendations, and hope Legislators will question the significant variance in results.    

We’ve also posted the raw data we obtained, to enable others to complete their own analysis.


Click here to download the 17 page summary

Click here to download the full presentation