Both parents in North Carolina have equal rights and responsibilities with respect to their children prior to a custody order. If a baby is born out of wedlock, this is true, too, as soon as paternity is established.
But if the parents are going their separate ways, their vision of their children’s future and their understanding of their co-parenting roles must be sorted out.
The nature of custody
There are different aspects to constructing a child’s universe. There are decisions about which school to attend, which religious organization with which to be affiliated and who will be the child’s doctor. This is legal custody.
Physical custody has to do with where the child lives, their day-to-day care and their safeguarding.
If the parents can amicably work out their co-parenting arrangements, there’s no need for the court to get involved. Should there be a dispute that cannot be resolved, either party can file a court action.
Best interests of the child
Custody issues in North Carolina first go to mediation. If a resolution cannot be achieved in mandatory mediation, the case goes to court.
In deciding how legal and physical custody will be shared and what the visitation rights will be, the courts use the best interest of the child standard, examining parameters in the child’s life, including but not limited to:
- Each parent’s living arrangements
- The parenting skills exhibited by each parent
- The relationship the child has with each parent
- Whether there’s been any history of domestic violence or addiction issues
- Whether the safety of the child is assured
Child custody issues are monumentally important and can be emotionally searing to deal with. The guidance of a skilled attorney experienced in this area of the law is advised so that the best outcome can be achieved.