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Primary caretakers in child custody cases

For many divorcing parents in North Carolina, determining who gets primary physical custody requires going to court. The parent who is the primary caretaker is more likely to gain custody of a child or children.

Psychologists stress that children have particularly strong bonds with their primary caretaker, and maintaining this relationship is important for developmental reasons and psychological stability. Courts will consider many aspects of a child's life when determining the primary caretaker.

The court typically looks at the child rearing responsibilities that each parent is responsible for. This may include meal planning, bathing and grooming, health care arrangements, teaching skills and helping with homework. Courts will also consider which parent communicates with teachers, facilitates extracurricular activities and spends more leisure time with the child.

If both parents share responsibilities evenly, courts will then consider the child's best interests. Several factors, such as each parent's home environment, income, and physical and mental health, determine where a child might be better suited. Children who are old enough could also contribute their opinions about who they wish to spend more time with.

Child custody refers to both physical and legal custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make big decisions such as schooling, religion and medical matters, and both parents might share legal custody so that each person has a say in how a child is raised. The parent who has physical custody has discretion when making daily decisions about a child's life. Unless a child is unsafe with one parent, courts generally want both parents involved in a child's life.

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