Child custody cases are complex from a legal perspective, but from a personal perspective, they can be painful, emotional, and overwhelming. After all, you want your children to be safe, happy, and thriving, not have their lives turned upside down from an acrimonious custody battle.
Our experienced child custody lawyers will work with you to determine what’s best for you and your children, and we will fight on your behalf to protect your rights as a parent. Whether we can help you in a mediation setting to establish the right custody agreement, or you need representation in court, with our legal knowledge and expertise, we will strive to achieve the best possible outcome while resolving your case quickly.
Types of Child Custody in North Carolina
There are two main types of child custody in North Carolina: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody means that a parent is authorized to make major decisions that effect a child’s life, such as where the child goes to school, medical decisions, and in what religion the child will be raised. Both parents can have legal custody of their children without having physical custody. Often the courts mandate that parents must agree on major decisions before moving forward.
Physical custody is where the child will be living. In North Carolina, there are three types of physical custody:
Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent for much, if not all of the time, and the other parent has visitation rights. In some cases of sole custody, the primary custodial parent will also have sole legal custody, able to make all the decisions for the child.
Joint custody grants parents more equal time with their children in a shared form of custody. Legally the division of custody may not be 50-50, depending on the needs of the child, such as proximity to school. With joint custody, both parents often have legal custody.
Third Party Custody
If a parent is not deemed fit, a third party, such as extended family or godparents, may be awarded custody of the children. North Carolina also allows third party visitation rights, often called grandparent visitation, when it’s in the child’s best interest to spend time with them.
Factors that Effect Child Custody in Raleigh
While many parents are able to work out their own custody arrangements, especially when their family law attorneys act as mediators, sometimes the decision has to be made by family courts. Judges in North Carolina determine child custody and visitation rights based on the child’s best interests and weigh the following circumstances:
- History of domestic violence or addiction
- Each parent’s physical, mental, and financial fitness
- Child’s overall safety
- Child’s current living situation and how moving would affect the child
- The ability of each parent to provide appropriate care and a stable home
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s wishes regarding custody and motivations for seeking custody
Additionally, a child’s preference is also taken into account once he or she has reached the “age of discretion,” which is generally around 10 years of age. The age of discretion refers to a child’s ability to form an intelligent, mature preference regarding where they live.
When two people have a child together and aren’t married, much of the legal aspects of child custody are the same, especially once the child is older. When a child is born, the unmarried mother has primary custody of the child born, especially if the father’s name isn’t on the birth certificate. However, once paternity is established and the father’s name is added to the birth certificate, he will have the same legal standing regarding custody as the mother.
Contact Our Team of Child Custody Attorneys in Raleigh Today
North Carolina child custody laws can be difficult to navigate, and a mistake can lead to losing valuable time with your child. Our team of family law attorneys at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler, & Thomas are here in Raleigh, providing you with the representation you need through mediation and court appearances to help you achieve the best outcome for you and your children. Call us today at (919) 615-2473 or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation.
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