While a divorce may end the legal relationship between a husband and a wife, it does not end the parental relationship each parent has with their children. A child custody agreement is essential for families in the divorce process.
In North Carolina, the law shows no favoritism to either parent when dealing with custody issues. The parents are joint custodians of the children, and each possesses equal rights to their custody. The court determines the legal, as well as the physical custody of the children.
Having an attorney who is familiar with the child custody laws can provide invaluable assistance in obtaining an agreement that meets the needs of both parents and children. Our Cary custody lawyers have 40 years of combined experience providing compassionate, personable legal counsel to parents and relatives facing the difficult challenges of a child custody battle.
Child Custody & Visitation Agreements
Child custody refers to a collection of parental rights and responsibilities regarding a child’s general welfare, authority, religion, education, and health care. Child custody and visitation are synonymous — visitation is not a lesser form of custody.
The most common method of settling child custody issues is through an agreement between the parents. This method is preferred because it is less expensive and less confrontational, and allows the parents to have more control over the matter.
The goal in reaching a custody agreement is to develop an arrangement that allows each parent to maintain a consistent relationship with their children and that sets methods of raising the children as they grow. If the parties are unable to come to a mutual agreement, then a civil action must be commenced to initiate a proceeding for the determination of child custody.
Many parents regret the outcomes of their custody arrangements because the agreement ends up not providing the results they had desired. Don’t be one of those parents — schedule a consultation with a child custody lawyer today!
Who Can File For Custody?
Any relative or other party may file a claim for custody of a minor child. The non-relative must show that the parent is unfit or has acted in a manner that is inconsistent from his/her parental duties and obligations. In these situations, the child’s natural parent is entitled to the custody and care of the child until (and if) the court determines that the non-parent would provide better care than a biological parent.
How is Child Custody Decided?
Contrary to popular belief, the courts do not automatically grant custody to the children’s mother. The court will make a determination of child custody based on who will promote the best interests and welfare of the child. Each parent’s past and present conduct is considered, and evidence must support why one parent’s behavior and abilities will better enhance a child’s overall welfare than that of the other parent’s.
Other factors that the court will consider include:
- Physical, mental, emotional, moral and religious factors
- The child’s preference
- Each parent’s caretaking ability
- Each parent’s home environment
- Each parent’s availability to the child
- Each parent’s economic situation and potential
- The child’s bonding with other siblings
It is important to note that although child custody orders are not permanent, they can be changed only when there is a showing of a substantial change of circumstances since the time the original custody order was entered. Usually, one must prove that the changes have a direct effect on the welfare of the children.
It is also important that even the most congenial of parties be sure to put any custodial agreement in writing, as oral agreements are often difficult to prove and impossible to enforce.
Types of Child Custody
A physical custody award in North Carolina may take any one of the following forms:
Joint custody divides custody equally between each parent. Typically, this type of custody grants joint legal custody to the parties, allowing both parents to make decisions regarding their children, and the children share time with both parents according to a set schedule.
2. Primary Custody / Secondary Custody
The child lives more than 50% of the time with one parent, with custody granted to the secondary parent according to a set schedule. Typically, the parties continue to have joint legal custody and to make decisions together.
3. Sole Custody
Sole custody places the child in the primary custody of one parent, and regular visitation rights are granted to the non-custodial parent. The parent with sole physical custody has the right to make all of the decisions regarding the child.
Speak to an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer
When dealing with anything related to your child, it is important to speak with an experienced divorce attorney. Cary divorce and family lawyers, Andrea Doyle and Ann-Margaret Alexander, each have 25+ years experience in child custody and visitation.
Child custody is not a matter to delay or to attempt to tackle alone. Fill out the form below to contact a child custody lawyer, who can assist you in seeking an optimal custody agreement, today!