Child custody matters can be contentious and emotional. Parents often worry about protecting their rights and their child, and their concerns often stem from fears about a process and system with which they are unfamiliar.
If this sounds like your situation, understanding some basic facts about child custody laws in North Carolina can alleviate some of the distress you may be feeling.
Types of custody
First, understand that there are two types of custody: legal and physical.
- Legal custody refers to a person’s rights to make decisions for a child on major matters like education, healthcare and religion.
- Physical custody is having a child in your physical care.
Parents can have shared or sole legal custody; they can also have shared or sole physical custody. Sharing either type of custody means both parents have rights. A parent with sole legal custody can make decisions for the child without consulting the other parent. A parent with sole physical custody lives with the child full time, while the other parent may have visitation rights.
Factors that determine custody
Numerous factors affect custody determinations. Broadly, they include elements that determine what is in the child’s best interests. More specifically, these factors include:
- A child’s safety
- The current relationship between the child and each parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide care for a child
- Each parent’s willingness to work with the other parent
- Any history of violence or abuse
- A child’s preference (in some cases)
Pursuing a fair outcome
There are generally two approaches to resolving child custody matters: outside of court and litigation.
Parents can opt for mediation or collaboration to work together to reach mutually agreeable decisions. This allows parents to retain more control over the solution. It also ensures unique elements of the specific case are considered. The outcome must be lawful, though, and approved by the courts.
If parents cannot or will not reach decisions outside of court, then the case will go in front of a judge. He or she will consider the same factors that we discussed above (as well as others) to arrive at an arrangement believed to be in the child’s best interests.
This post is intended to provide a basic overview of child custody in this state. For more detailed guidance and information, it can be wise to consult an attorney.