The wellbeing of your child or children is one of the most important considerations when going through a divorce. In fact, the impact of divorce on children can be the most emotionally charged and difficult aspect of separation and divorce.
Issues such as custody as well as visitation schedules have to be worked out between divorcing parents and are often a point of contention. How such issues are handled can have a huge impact on the child’s life along with the amount of child support that has to be paid.
If you are going through a divorce in Charlotte, North Carolina, you need to consult with an experienced child custody lawyer such as Waple & Houk, PLLC to advise you of your rights and responsibility when it comes to child custody. Contact our Charlotte child custody lawyers today at (704)954-8697 for your confidential consultation.
Are There Different Types of Child Custody Agreements?
Yes, there are two types of custody in Charlotte, North Carolina:
- Legal Custody
- Physical Custody
Legal custody refers to the right and/or responsibility to make important decisions and decisions of long-lasting significance for the wellbeing of a child. The rights that legal custody covers include the right to make decisions on behalf of the child regarding health care, education, and religious issues.
The statutes in North Carolina don’t offer a definition for the term “legal custody,” which means that parties involved in an agreement have the freedom to define what it means and what is in the best interests of a child in any particular situation.
Physical custody has to do with a child’s immediate physical care and supervision. Simply put, this type of child custody arrangement deals with the physical location of the child and which party he/she is with at the given moment.
The party with physical custody is usually allowed to make minor day-to-day decisions for the child. A physical custody arrangement often takes many forms, anything from equal parenting time to occasional visitation.
How Does the North Carolina Family Court Determine Child Custody?
The North Carolina Family Court doesn’t have a presumption regarding the parent that’s better suited to have custody of the child or children. Instead, the judge tries to determine the child’s best interest and considers all factors likely to impact the child’s well-being. Courts generally prefer if both parents are involved in their child’s life, but there’s never any automatic visitation or custody.
Family Court weighs several different factors when determining the type of custody arrangement that’s in the best interest of the child. Specifically, the child custody laws in North Carolina encourage the following:
- Child custody arrangements should encourage parenting agreements that reduce unnecessary litigation and promote the child’s best interest.
- Operate under the assumption that parenthood is an ongoing and substantial responsibility for both parents.
- Encourage practices that allow the child to maintain a relationship with both of the parents.
- Encourage practices that promote the participation of both parents in the life of the child.
- Encourage both of the parents to share parenting responsibilities equitably.
The guiding principles above should always govern all North Carolina court decisions regarding child custody matters. The overarching principle when it comes to deciding child custody matters is to always promote the child’s best interests and well-being.
Judges Have Significant Discretion in Deciding Child Custody
The statutory law in North Carolina regarding child custody clarifies that judges are required to consider all relevant factors when determining child custody. The statute doesn’t elevate one factor over another or tell judges exactly how to weigh all the factors, that’s why judges have significant discretion in determining child custody.
It is virtually impossible to predict how a judge is likely to rule in a child custody case. While all judges are required to apply the child custody laws, the laws themselves are broad enough to allow individual judges to make their interpretation of child custody matters.
Judges, however, can’t just snap their fingers and reach a hasty decision. Under the law, they are required to write findings of fact in their child custody decisions demonstrating that judges considered all relevant factors.
Factors Judges Consider
Judges in North Carolina consider multiple factors when making child custody decisions. All these factors related to the child’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being, and include:
- The age of the child
- The time available for each parent to spend with the child
- The relationship of each parent with the child
- The caretaking abilities of each parent
- The nature of the home environment of each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide for the child
- The relationship between the child and his/he siblings
- The specific needs of the child.
What Factors Will Hurt My Chances of Obtaining or Sharing Custody of My Children in North Carolina?
There are obvious parenting issues that may require the court to impose restrictions on one parent’s custody, visitation, and rights to access their children, which may include but are not limited to child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, psychiatric illness, homelessness, a violent criminal history, or a recent release from incarceration. If the judge believes there is a serious potential that the child could be harmed, the court may refuse visitation altogether. It is important to understand that these allegations must be more than statements: They must be backed up with tangible facts. If one parent makes unfounded allegations simply to hurt the other’s chances of obtaining or sharing custody, he or she may be the one who faces the consequences.
Can We Create a Child Custody Plan Without the Court’s Involvement in North Carolina?
While separating from your child’s other parent, you may not want anything to do with that individual. Still, it is important for separating parents to understand that they should still attempt to work out a child custody agreement without the court’s involvement.
The two reasons why you should create your own child custody plan are that:
- You as parents have the best idea of what your child needs
- The courts actually prefer that parents try coming to an agreement among themselves.
Courts are very busy with other equally important matters under the law and should generally be the last resort. Making a child custody plan, however, is difficult, and you will need help. The child custody lawyers in Charlotte, NC at Waple & Houk, PLLC can help you create a custody plan that works for you and your family.
What If the Parents Cannot Agree on Any Aspect of Child Custody in Charlotte, North Carolina?
If parents cannot agree on any aspect of child custody, then it will be up to the courts to decide. The court will first send both parties to mediation.
Mediation refers to a type of alternative dispute resolution intended to help the opposing parties reach an agreement on their own. The “mediator” is a third party that helps facilitate a discussion between the parents. The goal is for parents to come up with their own child custody decision and avoid litigation in court.
Mediation is aimed at pursuing the following goals:
- Developing child custody and visitation agreements that are in the best interests of the child.
- Reducing acrimony that exists between parties to a dispute involving child custody or visitation.
- Reducing the relitigating of child custody and visitation disputes.
- Providing a confidential, structured, and non-adversarial setting that facilitates the cooperative resolution of child custody and visitation disputes and minimizing the anxiety and stress to which the parties, and particularly the child are subjected.
- Providing the parties with informed choices, and, where possible, to give parties the responsibility to make decisions about child custody and visitation.
Mediation allows you and your child’s other parent to meet with a neutral third party that will guide you through the custody agreement and give you advice, It is almost always ideal to form a custody agreement on your own, without involving the courts.
If you and the other parent agree on the mediated solution, it will result in a parenting agreement. Your lawyers will then review the mediated parenting agreement and ensure that you understand it before signing it. Once it is signed by the judge, it becomes a court order.
Mediation can only be waivered by the court if there are issues of drug abuse and domestic violence, or when one parent lives more than 50 miles away from the jurisdiction. If either party is able to show good cause to waive mediation, or if it fails to result in a resolution, it will be up to the court to decide on child custody.
Unfortunately, going to court can be very expensive, drawn-out, and emotional for all parties involved. Furthermore, when you go to court, you will lose the ability to make the decision on your own since the court will be responsible for making the custody decision.
In court, opposing parties will present their arguments and it will be up to the judge to determine the terms of child custody, which includes legal and physical custody, custody schedules, as well as visitation.
Can I Relocate with My Children if I Share Custody with the Other Parent in North Carolina?
To move your child far away or to a state other than North Carolina, you need either an agreement with the other parent, or a court order approving the relocation. If you do not have either in place, it is important to obey your current custody orders and/or separation agreements, so you are not violating a court order or binding legal agreement. If the other parent will not voluntarily agree to a move with the children, you must seek a court order to do so.
Child factors that a court considers in determining whether a move would be in the best interests of the child include, but are not limited to:
- The parent’s opportunities, including a new job, promotion, or significant pay increase as a reason for the move.
- The relationship the child has with each parent.
- How difficult it would be to arrange a new custody/visitation agreement in the new location.
- Whether the child has friends, family, or opportunities in the new location.
The other parent will have the opportunity to present their case, as to why the move should not be approved, too. The court will weigh each argument, facts, and the overall best interests of the children when making its decision. Having a skilled Charlotte custody lawyer by your side can help you strengthen your case.
Call Our Charlotte Child Custody Lawyers Today
If you are a parent who is considering legal separation and divorce in Charlotte, North Carolina, the experienced child custody lawyers at Waple & Houk, PLLC can help you negotiate fair custody and visitation agreements.
We can also work with you on child support matters that may arise as you develop a suitable parenting plan. If necessary, we can even litigate on your behalf in pursuit of court order for proper arrangements.
If you need an experienced Charlotte child custody lawyer, you can take comfort knowing that the dedicated child custody lawyers of Waple & Houk, PLLC are ready to advocate for you. Contact us today at (704) 954-8697 or online and allow us to help you ensure the best for your child.
Frequently Asked Questions for Our Child Custody Attorneys in North Carolina
If you share children with someone with whom you never married, and the father is not listed on the birth certificate, or the couple does not have a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, the parent(s) must establish paternity before the father gains the right to custody or visitation. To do so, a judge can order the father to take a DNA test to confirm or deny whether he is the father.
If you and the other parent were never married, our child custody attorneys in Charlotte can help you understand the first steps in establishing paternity, as you must prove the child is yours before you can explore the next steps in pursuing child custody or visitation.
In North Carolina, the court may consider a child’s living preference if it believes he or she is of a suitable age to testify about their wishes. Even when the courts allow a child to testify about their wishes, the court does not have to consider their preference when determining custody rights. The decision is within the judge’s sole discretion.
Grandparents may be eligible to pursue custody of a grandchild when they can justify to the court that both parents are unfit or have acted in some other way that is inconsistent with their parental status. This may include facts like one or both parents being incarcerated, having a substance abuse problem, being homeless, having psychiatric trouble, or do not have the physical, emotional, and financial capacity to ensure the children’s well-being.
A temporary custody order will be in effect until the judge holds a new trial to decide about modifying the temporary order or entering a permanent order. Temporary custody orders are legally binding. The interim order dictates who has custody and visitation throughout the litigation or settlement process.
Yes. This can be accomplished by incorporating your custody/support agreement in the body of the divorce judgment.
No. Either parent can be awarded custody of a child based on the facts of the case, and what is in the best interests of the children.