When couples divorce, decisions regarding child custody, visitation, and co-parenting are the most sensitive and, at times, contentious. With both your rights as a parent and the interests of your children at stake, it is crucial to seek counsel from an experienced child custody lawyer in Raleigh as soon as possible after you and your spouse decide to separate. Fresh Start Family Law is here to help parents navigate this difficult process.
Different types of child custody exist in North Carolina.
Child custody consists of numerous rights and responsibilities that manage the caretaking relationship of parents and their children. There are two aspects of custody:
- Physical custody — This defines in whose household a child will live after the divorce, usually that of the primary caretaker (custodial parent) but sometimes both homes on an alternating basis.
- Legal child custody — This is the authority of one or both parents to decide on matters relating to the well-being of a child, including healthcare, education, and religion.
In cases of sole custody, only one parent has legal custody of the child, while the other parent has visitation rights with the child. In cases of joint custody, both parents have equal rights on decisions concerning their child. Fresh Start Family Law in Raleigh, North Carolina can assist you in reaching the best custody arrangements for your children
Under North Carolina law, both spouses are deemed co-parents with full legal custody rights. The courts encourage resolution of custody issues by agreement of the co-parents, deciding them only if no voluntary resolution is possible. In fact, state law requires that co-parents first submit their disputed issues to mediation before asking a court to hear the case. After hearing a contested case, a court may grant primary physical custody to one parent and secondary physical custody to the other; or joint physical custody to the parents. Other issues relating to the co-parents’ respective privileges and responsibilities are based upon what is in the children’s best interests.
Ensuring the best interests of the child in custody determinations
Custody is usually determined first and foremost with the best interests of the child in mind. Certain factors may determine the court’s decision, including the following:
- Each parent’s fitness — The courts pay attention to the respective parents’ parenting skills and the reasonableness of their conduct, and they prefer granting primary custody to parents who are in good health.
- Each parent’s relationship with the child — If one parent has been the child’s primary caretaker due to the other’s demanding or unpredictable work schedule or general shortness of time, that will be a strong factor in determining physical custody.
- Living arrangements for the child – The court also considers each parents’ residence and whether it is adequate for the child to reside in when in the care of that parent.
- Safety of the home — The Legislature has expressly identified home safety and protection of children from acts of domestic violence as factors in determining physical custody.
- The age of the child — The child’s preference for living with one parent over the other will play a part in the custody decision, and increasingly so as the child grows older.
Creating sensible and workable visitation schedules
When a court grants primary custody to one parent, the secondary custodial parent is entitled to visitation — the right to spend time with the child. Typically, visitation is allowed at least once every two weeks, or more frequently by agreement or by court order.
Grandparents also have visitation rights to their grandchild. This follows the same process as custody or visitation by a parent. The grandparents must prove to the court that having visitation with them would be in the best interests of the child. We apply our skills and experience to foster a visitation schedule that best serves the interests of our clients and their children.
Fresh Start Family Law can help if you are having a dispute regarding custody of your child. We are well-versed in all state laws that govern child custody and with local government, police, and courts. Additionally, the convenience of hiring a local law firm can be an important time-saving advantage. If you retain us, we will meet with you to discuss the facts of your case for custody and your objectives. We will then advise and assist you in taking the optimal route to achieve them. We understand that you would not want your future relationship with your ex-spouse and children jeopardized by litigation. When you consult with Raleigh North Carolina lawyers, you will be in good hands. Contact Fresh Start Family Law in Raleigh at your earliest convenience to learn more about your options.