Parents going through a child custody case naturally worry about how the outcome will affect their child, especially if their child has a strong opinion on which parent they want to live with. Will these wishes be honored when a court makes a child custody decision?
What are the types of child custody in North Carolina?
First, it is important to understand the basics of child custody in North Carolina.
Child custody in North Carolina can be legal or physical. Physical custody involves where the child lives on a day-to-day basis.
If a parent has sole physical custody, the child lives only with that parent but will likely have visitation time with the noncustodial parent.
If parents share joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent some of the time, although this time-split need not be 50-50.
Will my child’s wishes be considered?
Under North Carolina law, child custody orders must be based on the child’s best interests. State law enumerates the factors that courts will consider when issuing child custody orders. One of these factors is the child’s wishes.
A judge has the discretion to decide whether to consider the child’s wishes.
There is no specific age limit for whether a child can testify about their wishes. However, judges will consider whether a child has reached the “age of discretion,” indicating the child is mature enough to have good judgment.
Ultimately, while a judge can consider a child’s wishes about which parent to live with, the judge is not required to honor that wish. The judge will consider that wish, along with other factors, to determine which custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests.