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Everything You Need to Know About Child Custody Laws in North Carolina

Understanding the Basics of Child Custody

Put simply, child custody is having the legal rights to make decisions for your child and the right to having them in your care.

In other words, if you have custody of your child, you have been granted the right to make important decisions for your child.

Child custody is one of the most sensitive areas we deal with as family law attorneys.

Not only are we responsible for providing legal assistance to parents trying to protect the thing that matters most to them in life, but we are also fighting to make sure the child or children have the best path to success during one of the most trying experiences a child can endure.

The unfortunate truth is that every child that experiences a divorce will be impacted.

If there parents are involved in a child custody battle, it certainly does not make things easier.

Understanding your rights as a parent is the first step to achieving the goals of your child custody case.

Like most laws, the specifics of child custody will vary from state to state.

As child custody attorneys in Charlotte, we know you have an infinite number of questions about your divorce and child custody case.

Below, we describe some of the most frequently asked questions and the most important terms to know when it comes to Child Custody in the state of North Carolina.

North Carolina Statute 50-13.2 states:

An order for custody of a minor child entered pursuant to this section shall award the custody of such child to such person, agency, organization, or institution as will best promote the interest and welfare of the child. In making the determination, the court shall consider all relevant factors including acts of domestic violence between the parties, the safety of the child, and the safety of either party from domestic violence by the other party. An order for custody must include written findings of fact that reflect the consideration of each of these factors and that support the determination of what is in the best interest of the child. Between the parents, whether natural or adoptive, no presumption shall apply as to who will better promote the interest and welfare of the child. Joint custody to the parents shall be considered upon the request of either parent.

In other words, the court’s primary focus is on providing decisions that are best for the child.

Obviously, there are cases when there is more than one child involved in the custody case. For the sake of this article, we will simply refer to them as “child”.

Child Custody and Visitation in North Carolina

A question we frequently hear from our child custody clients is, “If I win custody of my child, does that mean my spouse will not be allowed to see them?”

The answer that question depends on several aspects of your case.

Even if you are granted custody, that does not necessarily mean your spouse (or ex-spouse) will no longer have the right to see your child.

In many cases, they will be granted certain visitation rights.

Visitation rights are court-appointed times when a parent is allowed to visit with the child or children. 

The specifics of the visitation rights will vary.

Depending on how the court rules, visitations may be chaperoned by the other parent or a child welfare official. They also may be unsupervised meaning that it will just be the parent and the children.

Other things like how much time, how often, and where visitation hours take place will also depend on the court’s ruling.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Divorce Laws in North Carolina

Legal Custody vs Physical Custody in North Carolina

Another question we are frequently asked is, “What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody of a child?”

What is legal custody?

If you have legal custody of a child, you have been granted the right to make certain decisions for the child.

In most cases, if you have legal custody of a child, you will have physical custody as well.

That does not necessarily mean your spouse can not also have physical custody, however.

What is physical custody?

If you have physical custody of your child(ren), you have the right to have the child physically in your care.

In other words, the child will live with you.

Depending on the court’s ruling, legal and physical custody may either be shared by both parents or divided between the two of them.

Can Neither Parent be Granted Custody of a Child?

As we stated above, the court’s decisions are based solely on what is best for the child.

If the court thinks neither parents are fit to care for the child, they will likely prohibit the parent’s custody rights and place there care in the hands of a court-appointed agency or institution.

This may be for a certain period of time or indefinitely depending on the specifics of the case.

Sole Custody vs Joint Custody in North Carolina

“What is the difference between sole custody and joint custody?” is another frequently asked child custody question.

When joint custody is granted, both parents must consult one another to make important life decisions for the child.

If the parents can not agree on a decision, the court will be responsible for making the decision.

Sole custody, on the other hand, means that one parent has the right to make important decisions for the child and is not required to consult with the other parent.

There are also other terms regarding sole and joint custody that are important to understand:

What is joint physical custody?

In North Carolina, joint physical custody means both parents have the right to have the child in their care.

This means the child will split time between staying at both of the parents’ residences.

This may be split evenly or unevenly depending on the court’s ruling.

What is sole physical custody?

Sole physical custody means one parent has been granted the exclusive right to have the child in their care.

However, the other parent may still be granted visitation rights if the court rules it so.

Starting Your Child Custody Case

Waple & Houk, PLLC’s Charlotte divorce attorneys are here to serve people in Charlotte, NC and the surrounding areas.

If you have questions about child custody or need a divorce and family law attorney to help you with for divorce and/or custody, contact us for a confidential consultation.