Area of Law:
When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, a North Carolina court will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child. Divorcesource.com offers a summary of divorce and child custody law in the state of North Carolina.
There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.
According to findlaw.com, courts consider various factors when awarding child custody, most importantly the best interests of the child. This “best interest” standard varies state to state, but some of the most common standards applied by various states, such as North Carolina, include the following:
- Wishes of the child (if he or she is old enough to capably express a reasonable preference)
- Mental and physical health of the parents
- Religion and/or cultural considerations
- Need for the continuation of a stable home environment
- Support and opportunity for interaction with members of the extended family of either parent
- Interaction and interrelationship with other members of the household
- Child's adjustment to his or her school and community
- Age and sex of the child
- Parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse
- Evidence of parental drug, alcohol, or sex abuse
According to North Carolina law, courts make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child, as well as several other specific factors, including the following:
- Acts of domestic violence between the parents
- The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from domestic violence
- The wishes of the child if he or she is of sufficient age
North Carolina courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the child may be experiencing. Courts will presume that both parents should have maximum involvement regarding the physical, mental, moral, and emotional well-being of the child. After the custody order is signed by the judge and filed with the appropriate North Carolina court, both parents must abide by it. If a parent is denied court-ordered access to a child, he or she may bring the issue back before the court. The judge may decide to modify the visitation order, provide makeup visitation for the time missed, or possibly order counseling or mediation. The website lawyers.com provides a complete and comprehensive report on divorce and child custody law in the state of North Carolina.