Charlotte Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody is easily one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce. At Rech Law, our Charlotte child custody attorneys can help you understand the different types of custody available to you and help you make decisions about what will work best for both you and your family. You can trust our firm to provide you with the strong representation you deserve.
Physical v. Legal Custody in North Carolina
A divorce that involves children means that custody must be determined either through mutual agreement of both parents or by the family court. As a parent, there are two types of child custody in NC that may be awarded to you: physical custody or legal custody.
Physical custody refers to where the child is going to live the majority of the time and can be awarded as either sole physical custody or joint physical custody.
- Sole custody means that one party has physical, exclusive care of the child, and the other party has visitation rights. The standard visitation schedule that comes to mind is that of an every other weekend schedule. This is by no means a “rule,” and many factors can play into whether or not an every other weekend schedule would be in the child’s best interest—the child’s age, school, the proximity of the parents from one another, the child’s extracurricular activities, the child’s health, etc.
- Joint custody means both parents share parenting time with the child. The child essentially has two primary residences and divides their time between the two. A standard joint custody arrangement may look like a week-on, week-off arrangement, meaning mom has the child one week, and dad has the child the next week. Again, this is by no means the only option and many factors will play into this as well.
Legal custody refers to the ability of either one or both parties to make significant decisions on the child’s behalf, such as medical choices, religion, education, and more. Legal custody is independent of physical custody and is usually awarded to both parents regardless of parenting time, however, if one parent is deemed to be unfit, the court can award sole legal custody to the other parent.
Jurisdiction & Residency Requirements
The first thing the judge has to do before deciding a child custody issue or sending the parents to mediation is to determine whether or not the court has jurisdiction. North Carolina has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (or UCCJEA for short), which is found in N.C.G.S. §50A-204. According to the statute, North Carolina must be the “home state” of the child at the date of filing the lawsuit which, although there are certain exceptions that apply, is going to mean that the child has lived in North Carolina for the past six months prior to filing the lawsuit.
How Child Custody is Determined in North Carolina
The standard the court uses for determining child custody issues is what is in the “best interest” of the child. Many factors will be considered to determine what will “best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” There is no formula to this and it is often very fact specific. It is important to raise these issues with the judge and court at the appropriate time to ensure that he or she has all of the information needed when making his or her decision.
In order to determine what is in the best interest of the child, the court will look at the following factors:
- History of domestic violence;
- The child's safety;
- The child's current living arrangement;
- The child's relationship with each parent;
- Each parent's ability to care for the child; and
- Whether or not each parent can create a stable home for the child.
These guidelines are not the end-all-be-all, but they do serve as a frame for how the courts will determine what is in the child’s best interests. Oftentimes, the courts try to disrupt the child’s life as little as possible.
Benefits of Resolving Child Custody Outside of Court
Child custody is one of the most difficult areas in all of family law. Parents being able to resolve custody issues outside of court often leads to happier results than leaving it up to the discretion of a judge. This is because, while most moms love their children, and most dads love their children, the judge who is going to decide the future for those children does not know even know them, and therefore, he or she does not love them.
At Rech Law, we can help you resolve child custody disputes outside of court with the following options:
Sometimes, litigation is absolutely necessary in child custody cases. Some parents cannot work together. They cannot make decisions. They cannot reach an agreement. In those cases, the court and judges are there to hear arguments and make rulings, and our skilled family law attorneys will be there to advocate on your behalf. Whether litigating or settling outside of court, the general concepts and law remain the same.
Do I Really Need A Lawyer For Child Custody in NC?
Based on an extensive review of your case, your Charlotte child custody lawyer can help you figure out the best move going forward. For example, there is may be a much better opportunity for you to achieve your goals through settlement with the other parent rather than litigating. Establishing a strategy is an important step in any family law case, and one that you should fully consider from the onset.
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