A Brief Q&A on North Carolina Child Custody

Understanding child custody laws can be confusing, but if you are going through a child custody battle, it is essential to stay informed. Here are some of the most common questions asked around North Carolina child custody.

How is custody determined?

According to North Carolina law, parents are permitted to organize and arrange custody of their children amongst themselves. Of course, if the split was not amicable, it can be difficult for parents to agree on this and therefore court action may be necessary.

In the event parents do not agree on custody and the case proceeds to court, the judge who determines the custody schedule will have to consider many factors, including:

  • The age of the child(ren)
  • How much time the parent has available to spend with the child(ren)
  • Parental stability
  • If either parent has abducted the child(ren)
  • If either parent has moved out of state
  • If either parent has abused or neglected the child(ren)
  • Any drug or alcohol issues
  • The location of each parent
  • How visitation can be facilitated
  • What the child would prefer (in some situations depending on the age and maturity of the child(ren))

It is only in very rare cases that a parent is denied visitation with their child, and most court orders will provide both parents access to the child, though the frequency and duration varies greatly.

What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

The court will determine who should be responsible for making major decisions regarding the child(ren)’s health, education, and general welfare.  Very often, the court will allow the parents to share this decision-making authority and will award joint legal custody. If, however, the parties have been unable to agree on these important matters in the past, or if one parent has shown a deficiency in their judgment regarding the child(ren), the court may determine its in the best interests of the children to award sole legal custody to the parent that has shown a better ability to make these decisions.  Physical custody is simply where the child(ren) is/are physically any given day. If the parents have a 50/50 schedule ordered by the court for the child(ren), for example, the parents have joint physical custody. If one parent is denied visitation, then the other parent has sole physical custody.

Could finding a new partner cause problems with custody?

In North Carolina, one party finding a new partner may be taken into consideration when determining child custody. For example, if there was evidence that the new partner was a significant danger to the child(ren), if obtaining the new partner meant the child(ren) suffered neglect, or the new partner affected the parent’s ability to act in the best interests of their child(ren).

Is the child’s preference taken into consideration?

A child’s preference may be taken into consideration by the court. However, how much weight is given to the child’s preferences tends to vary from judge to judge.  In North Carolina, the child’s age and maturity determine how much weight is given to their wishes. If they can give a thoughtful, measured opinion, then their preferences will be considered more seriously. A child is able to testify in court, though in many cases it is preferable for the child to talk directly to the judge in the judge’s chambers.  The parties have to agree to allow the child(ren) to be interviewed in chambers. If there is no agreement, then the child(ren) have to testify on the witness stand. Because of this, many parents opt not to bring their child(ren) into the court to prevent the stress and trauma to the child that comes from potentially having to testify in front of their parents.

Is it necessary to go to court to resolve child custody?

If you and your ex are getting along, you are permitted to decide the child custody agreement without going to court. However, in general, if you do agree, you should formalize your agreement in a court order.  By not doing so, you may have problems later down the line as out-of-court agreement is not binding like a court ordered one would be. Therefore if one person decides they no longer want to stick to what was agreed, it could be frustrating and upsetting for the other parent.

What does supervised visitation mean?

If the court believes a parent is a danger to the child and there is a possibility that parent may harm or neglect the needs of the child(ren) if they are left alone with them, a court can order that visitation only take place under supervision. This means the parent can still see the child, but only at a specific location and with a designated person in attendance at all times.

Going through a child custody battle can be very hard. The team of qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced lawyers at Lehnhardt Price Family Law can help make the process easier. Get in touch for a free, confidential consultation today.

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Lehnhardt Price Family Law

Lehnhardt Price Family Law is a North Carolina firm dedicated to providing clients with customized legal representation for all types of family law matters. Unlike the huge firms, we offer significant one-on-one time with your attorney, the ability to get in touch with us with questions, and a unique approach that is tailored to your situation.

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