How do I file for child custody in North Carolina?
If you and the other parent are unable to reach an agreement on custody issues, you can file a lawsuit seeking child custody or visitation rights. Once a lawsuit has been filed, Wake County requires both parties to attend mandatory child custody mediation sessions unless there is a good cause to waive mediation (such as a party living far away). After a group mediation orientation session with other parents, you and the other parent will set up a time to meet with a neutral mediator at the courthouse in an attempt to resolve your issues and reach a parenting agreement. If you are successful, the mediator will draft a legal agreement that becomes an order of court once it is signed by the parents and the judge.
What if the other parent and I agree on child custody issues?
Agreements regarding child custody should be formalized to avoid disputes in the future. Our attorneys can address child custody issues as part of a separation agreement and property settlement, a parenting agreement, or help you obtain a court order called a “consent order.” A court order is typically easier to enforce – and more difficult to modify – than a contract for custody. However, it is generally more expensive to obtain a court order than a contractual agreement.
How does the court decide which parent gets custody?
The court is required to look at what is in the best interest of the child/children. The court may consider many factors when determining what is in the best interest of the child, but there is no preference toward the mother or the father. You should consult with an attorney to discuss issues related to child custody.
What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?
Physical custody refers to where the children live on a regular basis. Physical custody may be shared by both parents, or one parent may have primary physical custody and the other secondary physical custody. Legal custody gives the parent the right to make major medical, educational and religious decisions regarding the child/children. It is not uncommon for parents to share joint legal custody even if they do not share equal physical custody.
How often can I expect to visit my child?
Custodial schedules vary widely depending on a number of different circumstances. A schedule might include one dinner or overnight visit a week, every other weekend from Friday evening through Sunday evening or Monday morning, alternating holidays and two to four weeks of summer vacation. In another case, a schedule may have the parents sharing physical custody, with one parent having every Monday and Tuesday overnight and the other parent having every Wednesday and Thursday overnight and the parties rotating the weekend from Friday afternoon through Monday morning with the child/children. Every case is different, and a schedule that is in the best interests of the children in one family may not be in the best interests of the children in another family.
Can I terminate the parental rights of the other parent?
There are certain instances where the rights of a parent may be terminated. However, you must provide evidence that grounds exist to terminate parental rights (as those grounds are set out in our statutes), and the court must determine that termination is in the child’s best interest. Once a parent’s rights are terminated, any future child support obligation of that parent is also terminated although any amounts currently outstanding remain due.