Some divorcing couples argue about everything, the division of property, spousal support, and even child custody. While mom may think she’ll get automatic custody, NC courts won’t favor either parent. If you’re experiencing problems in your marriage, a qualified attorney can help you understand the NC laws on child custody.
General Information About Custodial Laws
When reviewing NC laws on child custody, you’ll come across the terms primary, joint, physical, and legal custody. These words describe the different variations of parental involvement in their child’s safekeeping and management.
Primary physical custody means that the child lives with one parent. Usually, the other parent will have access to their child through visitation rights. While with joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent part of the time.
Whereas legal custody is the right to make important decisions about the child’s life. Education, religious upbringing, and medical decisions all fall under legal custody. As with physical custody, one parent can have primary legal custody or parents can share this legal right.
You May Need A Custody Evaluation
Sometimes, divorcing parents simply cannot agree on custody issues surrounding their children. Usually, the court will order the parents to undergo a mediation process. Yet, couples may still fail to reach an agreement during mediation.
When this happens, the judge CAN or MAY order a child custody evaluation. This mental health professional will interview both you and your spouse and observe interactions with your children. The judge hearing your case will consider the recommendations made by this professional when issuing your child custody order.
Preparation Tips for A Custody Evaluation
During an evaluation process, the specialist will interview both parents. The evaluator will ask questions to determine how well you understand and respond to your child’s needs. Ultimately, the specialist wants to understand the quality of your relationship with your child.
Usually, the evaluator will want to observe the child in the residence. Thus, your home should appear neat and organized.
When the evaluator arrives, you want to be cooperative. Answer the questions truthfully without any anger towards your spouse. Remember, the specialist is trying to determine what is in the best interest of your child.
Having a family law attorney to help you prepare can alleviate any anxiety about the evaluation. Your lawyer can assist you in figuring out what questions the evaluator will ask. Plus, an attorney can help you best describe both your parenting weaknesses and strengths.
An Unfit Parent
NC courts recognize the importance of the child/parent relationship and rarely terminate rights. However, the presiding judge must also be careful to protect the child from any impending harm. Certain parental actions or circumstances will label you as an unfit parent:
- Alcohol/drug addiction
- Mental illness
Yet, even if the court has deemed you an unfit parent, you may still be able to maintain your relationship. Often, the court will allow supervised visits. Moreover, if you demonstrate to the court your commitment to treatment, you may be able to expand your rights.
A family law attorney can help you assess the factors leading to your limited custody rights. Then, your attorney can provide advice on what actions you need to undertake. After demonstrating a substantial change affecting the best interest of your child, your attorney can file the necessary paperwork.
FAQs About NC Laws On Child Custody
Navigating the complex laws of child custody without an attorney may result in a loss of legal rights. To help you understand some of the issues, we’ve answered a few of our most commonly asked questions. Always consult a lawyer for legal advice on your specific case.
How Does The Court Decide Child Custody?
In NC, the court doesn’t favor one parent over the other and either parent may gain custody. Generally, the standard judges use in deciding custody is in “the best interest of the child.” The judge will look at all the facets of the parent/child relationship. Additionally, the judge will examine other factors such as parents’ living arrangements and the ability to care for the child.
Typically, the presiding judge has broad discretion in determining what’s best for the child. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced family law attorney to help you gather crucial evidence.
Is Going To Court Avoidable?
Yes. You can avoid court by working out a custody agreement with your spouse or in mediation. It’s only after these avenues have failed that you must go to court.
How Does Child Support Work When Both Parents Share Custody?
Typically, the custodial parent may receive child support. However, when both parents share physical custody, support becomes more complicated.
NC law acknowledges a parent as having full custody if a child spends at least 123 nights at their home. Usually, the judge will calculate the amount of support based on the percentage of time spent with the other parent. Moreover, the judge will also consider each parent’s income and childcare obligations.
Why Choose Morgenstern & Associates?
When you need an attorney for your child custody case, you want someone with experience to protect your legal rights. Barbara R. Morgenstern and Ashley D. Bennington of Morgenstern & Associates are board-certified specialists in family law. With a combined 40 years of experience, our lawyers can help you with a variety of family law matters:
- Separation agreements
- Spousal support
- Prenuptial agreements
- Child custody and support
Call us at 336-203-9110 to discuss the details of your case.