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Research for How to Find the Best Wilmington NC Child Custody Lawyer

Ending your marriage can be difficult. Emotions usually run high, especially when children are involved. In the case of a divorce involving young children, a Wilmington NC child custody lawyer may be called upon to help sort through things.

The best child custody lawyer is one that can act as an effective neutral negotiator, negotiating the best interest of the children between the parents. This means that child custody lawyers for fathers can convince the dad that it is in the best interest of the child for the mother to have custody if that is really best for the child. On the other hand, a child custody lawyer working for a mother should arbitrate with the child in mind as well. Even the best child custody lawyer cannot eliminate the pain and emotions associated with divorce entirely, but it is important to express empathy towards all parties involved.

The decisions revolving around your children are among the most important that you will need to make. These significant choices will shape your family’s future and impact the happiness and well-being of your kids for years to come. An attorney for child custody in Wilmington, North Carolina will help you resolve difficult issues regarding the children and help you through the process to seek the resolution that is best for you and your family.

Physical and Legal Child Custody in North Carolina

It is helpful to understand the two main types of custody:

  • Physical Custody – refers to the location where the child will reside.
  • Legal Custody – refers to the decisions that must be made on behalf of the child.

Both parents usually are allowed to have joint legal custody so they can both make decisions that involve such things as education, religion, and healthcare. A Wilmington NC child custody lawyer will explain these issues in more detail when you have a consultation.

Physical custody may be determined using a number of factors:

  • Age of the child
  • Which parent has historically been the primary caregiver
  • Physical and emotional condition of the child
  • Location of the child’s friends
  • Time spent living in the current house
  • Disabilities or required special care

Younger children are more apt to remain in the care of the parent who has been providing the most consistent care. For example, a stay-at-home mother spends many hours of each day with the child and will usually be expected to continue to provide primary care. A child custody lawyer will review your case and provide you with some assistance.

How to Find the Best Child Custody Lawyer

North Carolina requires that decisions are always made in the best interest of the child. The court has somewhat wide reign over this area. The courts generally prefer that the parents handle the issues involving their children before going to court.

While the courts have the ability to change a custody arrangement or a parenting plan, they typically do not do this. The law assumes that when parents agree on a custody arrangement, they do so by taking the child’s best interest in mind. Therefore, it is usually best to try to come to an agreement with your spouse before heading to court through the help of a custody lawyer.

When children are typically age 12 or older, the judge may consider where they prefer to live. Parents need to be mindful of their child’s desires and empathetic to their needs. For example, an adolescent boy may prefer to live with his father while a young woman may want to stay with her mother.

These desires are handled on an individual basis. The judge will interview the child to find out whether their desires are heartfelt and how important the decision is to the child. If your child wants to be heard on this issue, you should be sure to inform your North Carolina child custody attorney.

Sometimes parents are able to successfully co-parent with a shared living arrangement. For instance, a child may stay with one parent for three nights a week and the other for four nights, or the nights may alternate. This type of situation is most successful when parents live in close proximity to each other, preferably within the same school district and maybe within walking distance. This type of arrangement can be difficult for a child, so it is best to make sure that both you and the other parent are on board to try to make the situation as easy for the child as possible.

Child Custody Cases Where a Parent is Unfit

It is unusual for a parent to be denied visitation with their child. In situations where the parent has been deemed unfit, however, the court will decide visitation on a case-by-case basis. A parent may be considered unfit only for a handful of reasons such as if the parent is a convicted felon, drug or alcohol dependent, or has been convicted of harming a child.

In order to be denied visitation, a parent must be proven to be unfit to care for their child. This can be difficult and complicated because in some cases, there simply isn’t enough proof available due to reasons such as the parent not being found guilty of a crime.

The court will review the various issues that are involved in the case to decide how it should be resolved. Sometimes the answer is supervised visitation. Supervised visitation requires one parent to have another, neutral party with them at all times during a visit. This can make visits safer and less worrisome; however, it can also prove to be more complicated. In some instances, a parent may be allowed limited visits, and sometimes overnight visits are denied.

Because there are so many variables, it is hard to know in advance how the situation will work out. Discuss the case with a Wilmington NC child custody lawyer before you move forward with your case.

Custody Lawyers – Putting a Parenting Plan in Place

A parenting plan is a document that outlines all of the major issues regarding children in a divorce. You work with your child custody lawyer and your spouse to create a workable parenting plan that makes sense and is fair. Keep in mind that both parents are generally allowed to spend time with their children. Once a court order is in place, both parents need to abide by it and cannot make unauthorized changes.

It is particularly important to spend time making a plan that is as detailed as possible. If the children are in school, it should address when and where the child will be picked up from school daily and how weekends, holidays and vacations will be spent. Consider splitting the time between parents as equally as possible during a child’s vacation time.

Keep in mind that these situations might change. For this reason, the plan should include instructions for parents on how to handle changes and modifications in the future. This is particularly important when the children are young because, over the years, many things can change. Have your child custody attorney review the wording of the document to make sure that it is clear and precise.

Child Custody Lawyers Mediation in North Carolina

When there is no previous order in place or when parents are not able to agree to custody arrangements, the courts generally require mediation. Mediation takes place with a professional who is experienced with child custody issues. The mediator facilitates discussions between parents and helps communications.

There are several goals of mediation, including reducing conflict between parents, allowing parents to make informed choices, and creating a custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interest. When mediation results in an agreement, you and your spouse will sign it, and it will become part of the custody order by the court. Before doing so, make sure that you have it reviewed by your custody lawyer.

Parents can attend mediation without a court order if they like. Additionally, your Wilmington NC child custody lawyer may be extremely helpful in resolving disputes between you and your spouse. Your custody lawyer will work with your spouse’s child custody attorney to try to come to a fair agreement that is best for the child.

Child Attorneys – Relocation Involving Children

When one parent or the other wishes to relocate with the children, it can make for a difficult situation. In many instances, the other party won’t agree to the relocation because it will severely limit visitation with the child. It can be beneficial to try to work out the arrangement first with help from a child custody lawyer.

Probably the best time to relocate with your child is immediately at the time of the divorce. This is when the court will be less likely to interfere with the decision. If you are a relocating parent, you’ll need to prove that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and not just due to a change in work or living situations.

If you are a parent living in Wilmington, NC, who opposes the relocation of your child, you will need to state your case in court. This can be done with assistance from a child custody lawyer. A change to the custody and visitation requires a court hearing. At the hearing, both you and your former spouse must be present, along with your custody lawyer.

The judge will need to see proof that the relocation is best for the child and that not relocating could be harmful. If you oppose a spouse and child relocation, you will need to show that the child is happy, secure and healthy in his or her current environment and that a move could be physically or emotionally detrimental to his or her well being. Your child custody attorney will review what to expect at the hearing, so you are prepared in advance.

Modifications to Child Custody Agreements

Changes to child custody and support can be made, but only through the proper legal channels. Either parent is allowed to file a modification to child custody or support agreements. The parent must be able to prove that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances that have a detrimental effect on the well-being of the child.

It is essential that you do not take matters into your own hands by confronting your former partner about these issues in an angry or aggressive way. For example, if a parent hasn’t paid child support, you do not have the right to withhold visitation. This is a common occurrence but one that has to be avoided. Instead, take the proper legal steps if a parent is not living up to the rules and order of the court.

Contact a child custody attorney to help you resolve these types of breaches.

Child Custody Lawyers Near Me

Child custody cases can be extremely complicated and often require assistance from a child custody attorney. Even when you and your spouse seem to agree on the main issues, there are many loose ends that have to be resolved. The failure to properly handle a child custody case can have a negative impact on your child for the rest of his or her life.

You can save yourself a lot of worry and sleepless nights when you hire a child custody lawyer near you in Wilmington, North Carolina who understands the complex issues that are involved and will handle every minor detail in the case. At Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division, we understand the many issues that need to be resolved in child custody cases, and we work hard to represent you from start to finish, achieving the results you want.

Contact Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division to schedule a consultation with a child custody lawyer today.

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Why Choose Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division?

Passion – Our family law attorneys, Justin Moulin and Sarah Gray, are dedicated to helping clients with legal matters involving divorce and family issues in Wilmington, North Carolina. We put clients’ needs first, and we are passionate about helping people through emotionally difficult times.
Experience – When dealing with family legal issues, you need someone with a proven track record. Sarah Gray and Justin Moulin have dedicated their careers to representing families. Sarah has more than 10 years of experience representing clients, while Justin has worked in multiple counties in North Carolina and has focused on custody and child support actions, protective order hearings, alimony claims, property division, and divorce.
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Frequestly Ask Questions

FAQS About Alimony

Below are some frequently asked questions about Alimony:

Who may qualify for alimony in North Carolina?

Not every North Carolina divorce warrants alimony or spousal support payments. An NC family law court is unlikely to award alimony if both spouses work or are capable of working. A Wilmington family law attorney can review your case and evaluate whether you may be entitled to alimony.

A spouse may receive alimony after a long marriage during which they were a stay-at-home parent, or if they are the primary caretaker of a disabled child or other dependent. In some cases, alimony may be permanent, but often it’s a temporary arrangement to help the lower-earning spouse get back on their feet financially. Alimony will typically end if the recipient remarries or enters into a new domestic partnership.

What’s the difference between alimony and post-separation support?

North Carolina mandates a one-year separation period before a couple can file for divorce. During that time, post-separation support can cover the lower-earning spouse’s living costs or other needs. Post-separation support may also fund education or professional training.

Unlike alimony, which depends on the couple’s separation agreement and begins after divorce, post-separation support is a temporary pre-divorce arrangement that an NC court may order through a quick process that may not even require a hearing. This order will terminate if the spouses resume their marriage or divorce.

How do North Carolina courts determine alimony?

NC family law courts award alimony on a case-by-case basis. A judge may consider:

  • Each spouse’s age, income, assets, debts, and earning capacity
  • The amount of money the alimony recipient would need to keep up the standard of living they had while married
  • The paying spouse’s ability to keep up with alimony payments
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Marital misconduct like adultery, abuse, or squandering marital assets

A voluntary agreement with your spouse will usually be quicker, cheaper, and less stressful than taking an alimony case to court. Our experienced alimony attorney can help you negotiate a mutually acceptable alimony plan.

Do I need an alimony lawyer?

We recommend consulting an alimony attorney if:

  • You are preparing for divorce and plan to request alimony, or
  • You disagree with your spouse’s alimony request (for example, you believe your spouse is demanding an excessive alimony amount)

Our Wilmington divorce lawyers can protect your legal rights and help you settle all financial aspects of divorce, including alimony. Call our office at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division in Wilmington, NC, at (910) 769-7339 for a consultation.

FAQS About Child Support

Below are some frequently asked questions about Child Support:

How do North Carolina courts establish child support?

Separated or divorced parents in North Carolina have two ways to establish child support: (1) through a private separation agreement, or (2) by taking their case to a family law court. The first method is quicker, more convenient, less stressful (and less expensive), by far. In either case, it’s best to work with a child support lawyer who can advise you of your legal rights and help you protect your child’s interests.

When determining child support, a family law court will consider:

  • The child’s reasonable maintenance, health, and education needs
  • Both parents’ income (and, in some cases, potential income)
  • The custody arrangements—that is, which parent has primary custody and handles the child’s day-to-day maintenance

Can I ask to modify a child support order in NC?

Parents in NC may ask the court to modify a child support order for various reasons, like a reduction in income or a substantial change in the child’s needs. The court may consider modifying a child support order if:

  • The difference between the current child support amount and the prospective amount is 15% or more
  • The current order is at least three years old
  • A major change in the child’s (or either parent’s) circumstances occurred since the previous order

What happens if my ex refuses to pay child support?

If your co-parent violates the court’s child support order, you have several legal options to pressure them to comply with their financial obligations. If negotiations with your child’s other parent fail, you may consider filing a Motion for Contempt to enforce child support payments.

You can also contact North Carolina Child Support Enforcement and request help with collecting child support. Potential enforcement actions may include wage garnishment, property liens, and tax refund interception.

Our experienced child support lawyers in NC can help you pursue legal action if your co-parent refuses to pay child support.

When should I contact a child support law firm?

Even if your divorce proceeds amicably, we recommend consulting a child support lawyer to make sure you understand your legal rights and negotiate a reasonable child support agreement. Whether you’re the parent who pays or the parent who receives child support, working with a child support attorney can reduce uncertainty, conflict, and stress. Call our office at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division in Wilmington, NC, at (910) 769-7339 for a consultation.

FAQS About Child Custody

Below are some frequently asked questions about Child Custody:

How does child custody work in North Carolina?

In North Carolina divorces, one co-parent typically gets primary physical custody as the parent with whom the child spends most of their time. The other co-parent has secondary custody (visitation rights). We recommend consulting a child custody lawyer as you negotiate a parenting plan.

The specifics of each parenting plan depend on both parents working together to reach a custody agreement, and judges will usually mandate mediation before taking a custody dispute to court.

In any custody conflicts, the child’s best interest will be the court’s guiding principle. Younger children will most often stay with the parent who has been their primary caregiver. The court may also consider the child’s wishes, especially for children aged 12 and up.

What’s the difference between physical and legal custody?

The State of North Carolina differentiates physical custody from legal custody. Your child custody lawyer can help you understand the difference between physical and legal custody and how both types of custody work in your case.

While one parent may be the primary custodial parent and the child’s main caregiver, both parents may share legal custody of the child.

Legal custody refers to who determines all the key decisions parents make on the child’s behalf, such as education, medical care, and religious upbringing.

Can an NC family law court deny visitation rights?

In almost all cases, NC family law courts consider it in the child’s best interest to preserve a relationship with both parents. However, in rare situations of severe mistreatment, continuous neglect, substance abuse, or certain criminal backgrounds, a family law court may deny a parent's visitation rights or mandate supervised visitation.

Our child custody law firm can help protect your child’s rights if you believe your co-parent is unfit for unsupervised visitation, or if your spouse or ex-spouse wrongfully accuses you of being an unfit parent.

Do all divorcing parents in NC need divorce and custody lawyers?

While some co-parents work out a custody and visitation schedule without the help of a child custody lawyer, it’s usually advisable to look for “custody lawyers near me” as you prepare for divorce, especially if you foresee a custody dispute or know your soon-to-be-ex-spouse has already hired a divorce and custody lawyer. Our experienced child custody lawyer from Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division in Wilmington, NC, can help you reach a workable custody agreement. Call us at (910) 769-7339 for a consultation.

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