Issues surrounding the custody of children are often the matters that keep divorcing parents up at night, and can be the source of more stress than all other matters regarding your divorce combined. Seeking the guidance of a qualified family law attorney can help you move forward confidently regarding the custody of your children.
In North Carolina, the Court considers everything through the lens of the “best interest of the child”. A court’s consideration of “best interest of the child” and parents consideration of “best interest of the child” are not necessarily the same thing. As with other elements of your divorce, custody and support of your children can be mutually agreed upon. Agreements relative to support and custody of your children can be made a part of divorce Separation Agreement, ensuring that you and your spouse maintain authority and determination of the best interests of your children.
What is Custody Mediation?
When a divorce or custody action is filed with the Court, it is generally required that you and your spouse participate in a mediation conference before the case goes to trial. Though you will be required to participate in the mediation, you are not necessarily required to come to an agreement on custody terms, though it can be in your best interest to do so. Further, a mediator has no authority to impose any kind of custody arrangement that is not agreed to by you and your spouse. Any agreement that reached in such a child custody mediation conference will be included in your separation agreement and become part of your judgment so that the court can retain jurisdiction over the matter until your children reach their majority.
What is Legal Custody?
“Legal custody”, also known as “joint custody” or "joint legal custody", describes a common collaborative decision making prescribed to both parents regarding the decision making relative to major issues for the children of spouses who are divorced. This type of custody is presumptive under the law in North Carolina unless extenuating circumstances exist. Typically, one parent is designated as having primary physical custody and one with visitation, construed as secondary physical custody. Mutually agreed arrangements regarding the residential arrangements for children are welcomed by courts but there is no prescribed schedule set forth by law.
What is Physical Custody?
Primary physical custody is considered to be with the parent with which the children reside for more than 183 overnight segments per year. The parent with which the children reside for 182 or less overnight segments per year is defined as having secondary physical custody, also known as visitation. Primary physical custody and the number of overnight segments children spend with each parent in a year is an important consideration in determining child support for each child.
While primary custody and visitation on a mostly equal basis is presumptively in the “best interested of the children” this is not always the case in reality. When it is imperative that one parent have sole or enhanced authority and decision-making power relative to the children, North Carolina family court judges are well versed in how to consider these matters. When the best interests of the children are not best served by presumptive co-parenting, courts are well versed in making these assignments and can maintain jurisdiction of this issue in the event custody orders need to be modified in the future.
Questions surrounding the support and custody of your children are often the most daunting of issues parents face when considering divorce. A qualified and experienced lawyer can help you clearly understand all of the issues surrounding support and custody matters, and the long-term ramifications your decisions may have. Call Daren Gum today for consultation. He can help you nail down these important factors allowing you to move forward confidently in your divorce.