Child custody is often one of the most hotly contested matters in divorce proceedings or between unmarried parents. In North Carolina, when parents do not agree about how to share custody, a court may decide custody arrangements for them. If you are in a disagreement about how to share child custody, you may be wondering if you need a lawyer to represent you.
If you and your child’s other parent disagree about how to share custody, it’s highly advisable that you retain an attorney right away. In fact, even if you and your child’s other parent do agree about how to share custody, you should still retain an attorney to ensure that your parental rights are protected and that any agreement you sign accurately reflects your wishes, complies with state law, and upholds the best interests of your child.
Let’s take a look at why it’s so important for parents who plan to share custody to retain legal counsel.
As a parent, it’s important to understand that courts have significant discretion when determining child custody. Under North Carolina law, courts make custody determinations based on what “will best promote the interest and welfare of the child” – commonly referred to as the best interests of the child standard. In determining the best interests, courts will look at a variety of factors, including the following:
- Acts of domestic violence
- The safety of the child
- The safety of either party from domestic violence
- The parents’ living arrangements
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse
- The child’s preferences, in some cases
- Any other factors affecting the child’s welfare
Because courts can consider any factors that they deem relevant to the child’s welfare, virtually any aspect of your life can be subject to the court’s scrutiny. As a result, it’s critical that you retain an attorney to present your strongest case possible in a child custody dispute. Some of the specific ways a lawyer can help you in a child custody case include:
- Attempting to negotiate an out-of-court agreement with the child’s other parent that the court will likely sign off on
- If you are able to reach an agreement, memorializing that agreement in a way that is accurate and enforceable
- Gathering evidence in support of your proposed child custody arrangement
- Representing you in court
- Filing for a modification of an existing agreement, if appropriate
If you are involved in a child custody dispute or anticipate one will arise in the future, you should contact Greenwood Law today. Our North Carolina child custody attorneys understand how important it is for parents to have access to their children and the ability to make important decisions that will shape their child’s future. To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, call our office today or contact us online.