Child Custody refers to the arrangement that parents have regarding decisions about their children, where the children will live and how much time the children will spend with each parent. Child Custody issues can be resolved in a Separation Agreement, or the issue can be litigated, and a judge will decide the particulars of the custody situation.
In North Carolina, the standard that a judge uses to make his or her decision is the “best interest of the child.” Based on the evidence presented to him or her, the judge will do his or her best to decide what kind of custody arrangement will best promote the health and welfare of the minor child(ren) involved.
There are two “types” of custody. One is “legal custody,” which means decision-making. The other is “physical custody,” which means where and when each parent will have the children.
In most custody cases, parents will share what is known as “joint legal custody,” and that means that each parent has a say in the decisions related to health, education and welfare of the child(ren). “Joint physical custody” is less common, and typically one parent or the other is awarded “primary physical custody.” There is no statutory requirement in North Carolina that one parent or the other be awarded “primary physical custody,” but that is the most common outcome in litigated custody cases. When one parent is awarded “primary physical custody,” the other parent is usually awarded “secondary physical custody,” which is sometimes referred to as “visitation.”
People who settle their child custody issues in a Separation Agreement have much more control over the way the time with their children will operate than if they choose to litigate. In addition, settling the child custody issue keeps the child(ren) from having to testify or otherwise be involved in a child custody trial. There are times when litigation is simply unavoidable, but child custody is perhaps the one area in North Carolina Divorce law where settlement can benefit the most, especially for the children involved. It is very important to have a knowledgeable child custody lawyer by your side to ensure your children’s interests are being protected, and your rights to your children are not being denied.