Child custody is one of the most difficult and important aspects of any divorce. If you're facing divorce, knowing how the process works can help you come into it in as strong of a position as possible.
There are two different types of custody
In North Carolina there are two types of child custody that are awarded: physical and legal.
Physical custody is granted to the parent who is best equipped to handle the day-to-day rearing of the child. Although not typical, physical custody can be shared in some instances. If physical custody is not shared, the other parent can seek visitation.
Legal custody refers to the power to make decisions on behalf of the child regarding the child's schedule, schooling, religious instruction, health care, and other important decisions. Legal custody is usually shared unless there are extenuating circumstances.
How custody cases are decided
Either parent may petition for child custody. The child's wishes may be taken into consideration depending on his or her age, but a child may not decide who will receive custody.
If both parents agree to a child custody arrangement, they may set out the terms in a Parenting Agreement or Separation Agreement. If not, they can try alternative dispute resolution, like mediation or arbitration. A third alternative is to have custody decided by the court, if the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own.
Contrary to popular belief, child custody is not considered to be a mother's right. Rather, North Carolina courts grant equal consideration to both parents.
What is in a child's best interests?
In accordance with North Carolina law, courts must base custody decisions on the best interests and welfare of the child. Factors affecting this decision include:
- Where each parent lives
- Each parent's ability to support the child financially
- Each parent's current living arrangement
- The relationship between each parent and the child
- Whether there has been any domestic abuse
- The child's general safety and welfare
It's important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to child custody. Every case will be different depending on the family's unique circumstances. For more information about how the law might apply in your case, talk to an experienced family law attorney.