The divorce process can be emotionally and physically taxing. It often involves lengthy negotiations about crucial matters such as alimony, property distribution, and child custody. Are you going through a divorce and worried about your custody rights? Contact Speaks Family Law to discuss your case with an expert Wilmington Divorce Attorney.
If a divorcing couple has children, they have to discuss child custody during the divorce negotiations. Some couples will usually reach an agreement and set up a parenting plan. Others, however, could fail to agree, forcing the courts to step in.
In this article, we answer the question, how do courts decide who gets custody of a child?
Types of Custody in North Carolina
Parents in North Carolina can share joint custody, or one parent could hold sole custody of a child. Essentially, the custody could be physical or legal:
- Physical custody – A parent with physical custody gets to live with the child. If both parents have physical custody, the child will live with both parents at different alternating times.
- Legal custody – If you have legal custody of a child, you can make major decisions on their behalf. This includes matters such as health, religion, and education.
The Child’s Best Interests
When parents are unable to reach a custodial agreement, the courts will take over. Decisions made by a judge concerning child custody are usually based on the child’s best interest. Using this standard, the judge will consider factors such as the:
- Ability and willingness of each parent to live with the child
- Parents’ living arrangements
- Parents’ wishes regarding child custody
- Parents’ willingness to foster a relationship between the other parent and the child
- Parent’s mental and physical health
- Parents’ history of domestic violence, if any
- Child’s health, age, and overall needs
- Child’s need for adjustment to a new school, home, and community
- If the child has reached the appropriate age, their preference
The Child’s Safety
A judge may not award physical custody to a parent with a history of domestic violence. This is unless they are confident the child is safe with that parent. Most times, the parent will be granted visitation rights, which will only be executed in the presence of a designated third party.
The court will also evaluate each parent’s lifestyle. Opposing parties could try to substantiate any history of drug abuse, alcoholism, or other criminal activities. When this happens, child protective services may investigate the allegations and report back to the judge.
The Child’s Preference
If both parents are found to be good and stable, the court could consider the child’s preference. Simply put, this is a child who can form a rational and intelligent preference in custody.
Talk to a Wilmington Divorce Attorney Today
Child custody in North Carolina is defined and regulated under State Code Section 50-11.2 and State Code 50-13.1. Essentially, all decisions concerning legal or physical custody of a child should be based on the child’s best interest. It is not uncommon, however, for parents to disagree with court decisions.
At Speaks Family Law, we specialized with family law matters such as child custody. We can help you understand your rights as a parent and protect those of your child. If you are facing a child custody battle, contact our offices to speak to a Wilmington Divorce Attorney.