North Carolina Custody FAQs

When it comes to family law, few topics are as complex and emotionally charged as child custody. Here in North Carolina, the laws surrounding this sensitive issue aim to serve the best interests of the child. But what does that mean for you and your family?

The North Carolina child custody attorneys at Greenwood Law are here to answer the most pressing questions on the minds of parents facing custody proceedings. From the basics of legal and physical custody to the intricacies of visitation rights, we’ll break it all down for you in detail. With our support, you can navigate the custody process with clarity and assurance, focusing on what’s truly important: your family’s well-being. Let’s get started.

How is child custody determined in NC?

The North Carolina Judicial Branch explicitly states that the law does not favor one parent over another. Either parent can seek custody of their children. The North Carolina General Statutes say that the courts must make custody decisions based on the best interest and welfare of the child.

Having said that, the courts prefer when divorcing parents can resolve child custody issues on their own, as this generally makes the process easier for everyone involved. If divorcing parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the courts will decide the matter. Judges consider a range of factors when making custody decisions, including:

  • The Child’s Safety: The safety of the child is the primary consideration in all custody decisions, so judges will look for any history of domestic violence or abuse.
  • The Child’s Health and Welfare: Judges evaluate the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s overall health, welfare, and developmental needs.
  • Existing Parent-Child Relationship: The courts will weigh the emotional bonds between the child and each parent, considering who has been the primary caregiver.
  • Each Parent’s Mental and Physical Health: The mental and physical health of each parent is a significant factor in custody decisions, as it can significantly impact their parenting ability.
  • The Child’s Preference: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the court may consider the child’s preference regarding which parent they wish to live with.
  • Stability of Home Environment: The stability and continuity of the home environment each parent can provide are important factors in custody decisions.
  • Sibling Relationships: Judges will consider the importance of maintaining sibling relationships, especially in cases involving multiple children.
  • Maintaining the status quo: Broadly speaking, courts want to disrupt a child’s life as little as possible. As such, they tend to make decisions aimed at keeping the child’s day-to-day life as close to what it was prior to the divorce as possible.

How long do most custody cases take?

The duration of custody cases in North Carolina can vary widely, primarily because each family’s situation is unique. Several factors play into how long it might take to reach a resolution. First, the complexity of the case is a significant determinant. Cases involving multiple children, cross-jurisdictional issues, or extensive assets can take longer to resolve. Second, the level of agreement between parents will affect how quickly they can resolve their case. When parents agree on key issues, cases can move more swiftly; contentious disputes, however, often require more time for mediation or court hearings.

Third, the court’s schedule also impacts the timeline. Busy court calendars can lead to delays in hearing dates and final decisions. Fourth, the need for expert witnesses or evaluations – such as child psychologists or financial analysts – can extend the process, as these assessments take time to complete and analyze. Lastly, any changes in the parents’ circumstances or new developments during the proceedings can lead to additional hearings or adjustments in the custody arrangement, further prolonging the case.

Can a mother take a child away from the father in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the law does not give automatic preference to mothers or fathers in custody battles. What’s important is the child’s best interests, and this principle guides the court’s decisions. This approach helps ensure a fair and unbiased evaluation of each parent’s ability to care for their child, without preference towards either parent based on gender.

A parent aiming to secure sole custody must demonstrate to a judge that the other parent is unfit or poses a risk to the child’s safety and well-being. This can include evidence of neglect, abuse, or an inability to provide a stable home environment. It’s a process that requires substantial proof, and the courts do not award sole custody lightly.

In situations where a child is in immediate jeopardy with one parent, the other parent can seek an emergency custody order. Grounds for an emergency custody order may include signs of abuse, threats of abducting the child out of state, or other grave concerns. However, securing such an order is challenging. Doing so requires strong evidence. Given the complexity and the high stakes involved, obtaining an emergency custody order typically requires help from an attorney.

What is the custody schedule for a child in NC?

Custody schedules in North Carolina are as diverse as the families they serve. Each family must craft their own schedule to accommodate their unique needs and circumstances. Several factors influence these schedules, including the distance between the parents’ homes, the child’s school and activity schedules, and the parents’ work commitments. The child’s age and specific needs also play a critical role, as younger children may require more frequent transitions between homes, while older children might benefit from longer, more stable periods with each parent. Additionally, the level of cooperation and communication between the parents can significantly affect the feasibility of a particular schedule.

Given these variables, custody schedules can range from alternating weeks with each parent to more nuanced arrangements. For example, a 2-2-3 schedule allows the child to spend two days with one parent, two days with the other, and then alternate three-day stretches. Another common schedule is a 3-4-4-3 pattern, where the child spends three days with one parent, then four days with the other, followed by a switch. For parents with unconventional work hours, a customized schedule that aligns with their specific work patterns may be necessary. Ultimately, the goal is to devise a schedule that upholds the child’s best interests, providing them with stability, consistency, and quality time with both parents.

Can parental rights be taken away in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, courts typically favor arrangements where both parents share legal custody. This principle reflects a belief in the value of a child maintaining strong relationships with both parents. However, there are circumstances where a parent might pursue sole custody. To obtain sole custody, a parent must demonstrate that the other parent is unfit for caregiving. This is a tough hurdle to clear, as the courts set a high standard for such claims, especially when a parent also seeks to restrict the other parent’s visitation or physical custody rights.

Factors that might lead a court to grant sole custody include evidence of persistent substance abuse, a history of domestic violence, chronic neglect, or any behavior that directly threatens the child’s safety and well-being. Additionally, the courts might consider a parent’s complete lack of involvement in the child’s life or severe mental health issues that impede their ability to care for the child. The overriding principle is always the child’s best interests.

Our North Carolina Child Custody Lawyers Are Here for You

At Greenwood Law, we know you want to protect your child and help them live as comfortably as possible after your divorce. We can help you reach that goal and represent you in any necessary court proceedings. Call us today or complete our contact form for a confidential consultation.