When a marriage ends on bad terms, child custody can be one of the most challenging divorce disputes. However, it is equally a challenge when spouses or partners part on good terms. In deciding custody, North Carolina law and judicial system place the child’s wellbeing and interest above all else. In this article, our Charlotte family law lawyers take an in-depth look at how child custody works in North Carolina. If you are considering a divorce with children involved, we can help you get the best agreement with your partner.
What Is Child Custody and Visitation?
Child custody is the right to make significant life decisions about a child and the right to have the child in your care. A visitation is a secondary form of custody as it only grants you the freedom to visit the child and not have them directly in your care. Visitation times are usually set forth by a family court judge, with specific conditions.
A parent with visitation rights must adhere to the conditions listed in the court order. For example, if you can only visit the child on Saturdays, between 12 noon and 6 p.m., you must do so within that time. Usually, the deviation from any or all the court order provisions granting this right leads to revocation.
Are Legal and Physical Custody the Same?
Most people often think that legal and physical custody is the same thing, but they aren’t. Instead, legal custody grants you the right to make crucial decisions in the child’s life. For instance, a parent with legal custody can decide if the child should undergo surgery for an illness or not.
On the other hand, physical custody means that you have the child in your physical care, whether at all times or part-time. A parent can have physical control but no legal right. It means that while your child can live with you, you do not have the right to make decisions about their lives. This is common in most joint custody agreements.
However, you can share legal and physical custody. Here, your ex-spouse or partner cannot decide about the child’s wellbeing without your input or consent. Both of you will always have to be on the same page and put your child’s interest first. A lawyer can help you ensure you get both legal and physical custody of your child.
What Does Sole and Joint Custody Mean?
Parents in a custody battle always fight over sole and joint custody of their child or children. This is because of the importance of the two of them. In sole legal custody, one parent makes all the decisions about the child’s life without consulting the other parent. But in joint legal custody, both parents must consult with each other before making any decision.
Some of these joint decisions are:
- Where the child will school
- If the child can travel of the state of residence or country
- The type of medical care the child can get, etc.
In situations where both parents can not agree, they will leave the decision up to a judge. The child lives with only one parent in sole physical custody, though the other parent can have visitation rights. Joint physical custody means that both parents can spend time with the child. Here, the parents create a schedule for when the child will stay with either of them.
Note that joint physical custody is either primary or secondary physical custody. In primary physical custody, the child stays with one parent most of the time, while in secondary, the other parents have the child at some specific periods. For example, it could be on weekends, holidays, or scheduled dinner visits. Again, the focus is on what’s best for the child.
Who Can File for Child Custody or Visitation?
Any parent can file for child custody or visitation, irrespective of whether the parents are divorced, separated, or never married. In addition, third parties like grandparents, relatives, or others who have cared for the child can file for custody. However, to get custody as a non-parent, the applicant must prove that the biological parents are unfit to care for the child or failed to act per their duty as a parent.
Do You Have a Child Custody Dispute? Let Expert Charlotte Family Law Attorneys Help You!
Anger sometimes makes parents not focus on what’s best for their child, so they make mistakes that might cost them the child’s custody. But with a family law expert from Waple and Houk working with you, you will focus on what’s best for your child. Our family law lawyers will advise you throughout the process and represent your interest also. Call us today for a confidential case review.