Child custody cases can present challenging circumstances to navigate, often leading to emotional distress, feelings of being overwhelmed, and complexity. Our family law firm can help guide you through the child custody process and educate you on the various types of custody available in North Carolina or South Carolina. We will provide you with informed recommendations on the best custody arrangements for you and your family, whether you are seeking initial child custody or looking to modify an existing child custody schedule. Count on us to offer practical advice that can help you achieve your desired outcomes.
What to Expect
At Carini Family Law, we understand that child custody and visitation can be emotionally charged, and complex issues arise during a divorce or separation. That’s why our firm is here to provide you with the guidance and support you need to protect the best interests of your children and achieve a favorable outcome for your case. Here’s what you can expect when you hire an attorney at Carini Law.
- Initial Consultation: During your initial consultation with an attorney at Carini Law, we will ask you questions about your case to better understand your situation, needs, and overall custody and visitation goals. We will then provide an overview of the legal standards pertaining to your child custody case and answer your legal questions relevant to your specific child custody issues.
- Legal Representation and Guidance: Once hired to represent you in your child custody case, we will educate you on the legal processes involved in your case and discuss your legal options with you. We will provide legal guidance and support to help you achieve your desired outcomes.
- Document and Information Gathering: Once we begin working on your case, we will gather evidence, documentation, and information from both you and the other parent.
- Case Resolution: Depending on your situation case, your custody case may be resolved by reaching an agreement outside of court through mediation or arbitration, or your case may be resolved by a Judge in court.
Throughout the process, an attorney at Carini Law will be by your side to keep you informed of any case updates and work with you to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody in North Carolina
Legal and physical custody are two distinct types of custody in North Carolina, and it’s essential to understand their differences.
- Legal custody – Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make significant decisions with important and long-term implications for their child’s best interest and welfare. Examples of decisions that a parent with legal custody can make include decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Oftentimes, both parents share legal custody of the child, even if one parent has primary physical custody, meaning that the parents share the right to make these major decisions.
- Physical Custody – Physical custody refers to where the child lives and spends the majority of their time. In North Carolina, parents can share joint physical custody, or one parent can have sole physical custody. Joint physical custody means that the child spends a significant amount of time living with both parents. Sole physical custody means that the child primarily lives with one parent, and the other parent has visitation rights.
If two parents can reach an agreement on child custody on their own, either through settlement negotiations or mediation, it may not be necessary to go to court and have the Judge determine a child custody arrangement. Even if child custody is settled outside of court, it is important that you have a child custody lawyer assist in negotiating and preparing the child custody agreement to ensure that the agreement is fair and legally enforceable.
If two parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, they will need to go to court and have the Judge decide. When deciding on custody in North Carolina, the court always considers the best interests of the child. When determining what is in the best interest of the child, the court may consider factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs, and any history of domestic violence or child abuse. If your child custody case goes to court, it is important that you work with an experienced child custody lawyer to represent you throughout the process.
If you have any questions about legal or physical custody or any other aspects of child custody family law in North Carolina or South Carolina, we are here to help. Carini Law provides guidance and support to help you make informed decisions that are in the best interest of your child.
Determining Child Custody and Visitation in North Carolina
We understand that child custody cases can be emotional and stressful, and we are here to provide professional guidance and support to our clients throughout the complex process of determining child custody in North Carolina.
Settlement vs. Litigation
You do not have to go to court to determine child custody in North Carolina. If you and the other parent can reach an agreement on your own, either through negotiation or private mediation, you can enter a formal agreement setting forth the agreed-upon custody terms, and a judge will not be required to decide custody for you.
Settlement Outside of Court:
If you and the other parent attend private mediation to reach an agreement on child custody outside of court, it is important that you have an attorney representing you at mediation. Although the mediator is often an attorney, the mediator does not represent either parent at mediation. The mediator’s role is to act as a neutral third party working to assist the parents in reaching an agreement, and the mediator cannot provide legal advice to either parent.
If an agreement is reached at mediation, your attorney will draft a formal agreement reflecting the agreed-upon terms, which will be signed by both parties and often a Judge.
Even when your custody case can be resolved outside of court, it is important that you have a child custody attorney representing you during the negotiations and drafting of the child custody agreement so that you can ensure that you.
If your custody case is not settled outside of court, you will have to go to court and have a judge decide custody for you.
A court action begins when one parent files a “Complaint” for custody with the court in the appropriate county. Prior to the custody case being scheduled for a hearing, both parents will be required to attend a mandatory court-ordered mediation, if they have not already attended a private mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached during mediation, the case will proceed to a custody hearing, during which each parent presents their arguments and evidence for their desired custody arrangement.
When deciding child custody in North Carolina, the Judge will decide based on what he or she believes is in “the best interest of the child,” after reviewing all the evidence presented. When determining what is in “the best interest of the child,” the Judge looks at a variety of factors, such as the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs, and the child’s preferences (depending on their age and maturity level). The Judge may also consider each parent’s willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent and any history of drug or alcohol abuse, or violence towards the other parent or the child.
At Carini Law, we believe in providing personalized attention and support to our clients. We offer mediation and collaborative custody and visitation options for those who wish to avoid the stress and expense of going to court. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your divorce case.
Common Joint Child Custody Schedules
Developing and finalizing a custody schedule can be challenging. Parents going through a divorce often experience anxiety and uncertainty, which can lead to heated negotiations. However, it is crucial to maintain a calm and secure environment for the children involved. By exploring common custody arrangements, parents can remove the mystery from the process and approach negotiations more effectively.
Common Joint Physical Custody Schedules:
Extensive research has consistently highlighted the importance of quality time spent with both parents, assuming their safety and well-being. The ideal joint custody schedule should consider the child’s developmental stage while minimizing conflicts and stress for the parents. Below are just two of the many possible joint custody schedules that can be implemented in your child custody case.
- Pros: This schedule reduces the number of transitions, offers structure and consistency, and allows both parents to have dedicated weekend and weekday time with the child. Additionally, extended periods with one parent can allow for visits with extended family members without significantly impacting the other parent’s time.
- Cons: This schedule can be hard for younger children, as being away from one parent for an entire week may cause separation anxiety. To address this, it is often encouraged to allow the children to have a mid-week dinner visit with the other parent. An alternating week schedule also requires both parents to be available to assist with their children’s day-to-day tasks and extracurricular activities, which may not be realistic in some situations.
- Pros: This arrangement allows each parent to have the children on alternating weekends. With a “2-2-3 schedule,” each parent gets to spend time with the children on a weekly basis, and the children do not have to go extended periods of time without seeing one parent. This arrangement works well when parents live close to one another.
- Cons: There are more transitions, which makes clear and open communication between parents essential for this arrangement to work effectively. Depending on their ages, this arrangement may cause children stress due to the inconsistency.
Can a parent refuse visitation if the other parent is not paying child support?
No, a parent cannot refuse visitation if the other parent is not paying child support. Child support and visitation are separate issues, and one cannot be used as leverage to enforce the other.
Is one parent favored over the other in court?
No. There are no laws in North Carolina indicating a preference for one parent versus the other when it comes to child custody arrangements. To the contrary, most Judge’s believe that 50/50 custody is in the best interest of the child unless case-specific circumstances show otherwise.
What factors do North Carolina courts consider when determining child custody?
North Carolina courts consider the best interests of the child when determining custody. Some of the factors they may consider include the child's relationship with each parent, each parent's ability to care for the child, the child's wishes (depending on their age and maturity), and any history of domestic violence or child abuse.
Can a parent move out of state with the child after a custody order is in place?
If there is a custody order in place, a parent cannot move out of state with the child without first getting the court's approval. The court will consider the best interests of the child when deciding whether to allow the move.
How is child custody modified in North Carolina?
Child custody can be modified in North Carolina if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the child's welfare. For example, if one parent has moved out of state or if the child's needs have changed, the court may modify the custody order.
Why Choose Carini Law
At Carini Family Law, we’re committed to helping families in North Carolina and South Carolina find solutions that are in the best interests of the children involved in child custody and visitation cases. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and get the guidance and support you need to navigate this difficult time.
Services Offered by Our Law Firm to Assist
At our law firm, we understand that every family law case is different. That’s why we offer a range of family law services to meet the diverse needs of our clients. Here are some of the services we offer:
- Adoption and Surrogacy: Building a family is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. We are experienced in helping guide individuals through the process and provide legal support and guidance.
- Alienation of Affection & Criminal Conversation: If your spouse has had an affair, you may be able to pursue a legal action for Alienation of Affection and/or Criminal Conversation. Our lawyers can guide you through the process and help you understand your legal options.
- Child Support: Calculating child support can be a complex process. Our lawyers can help you understand the guidelines and work to ensure that child support payments are fair and reasonable.
- Cohabitation Agreements: If you’re living with a partner but are not married, a cohabitation agreement can provide important legal protections. Our attorneys can help you draft an agreement that addresses issues such as property division and support in the event of a separation.
- Divorce: If you and your spouse decide to file for divorce, our attorneys can handle all necessary paperwork, and ensure that your legal rights are safeguarded. Our team is dedicated to supporting you during this challenging time and advocating for your best interests throughout the divorce proceedings.
- Enforcement of Court Orders: If your spouse is not complying with a court order, such as a child support or custody order, our attorneys can help you pursue enforcement actions to ensure that your legal rights are protected.
- Equitable Distribution & Division of Property: Dividing marital property can be a complex process, especially if there are significant assets or debts involved. Our lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and negotiate a fair and reasonable distribution of property.
- Postseparation Support & Alimony: If you need financial support after your separation, our lawyers can help you understand your options for postseparation support and alimony.
- Prenuptial Agreement & Postnuptial Agreement: A prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement can provide important legal protections in the event of a separation or divorce. Our attorneys can help you draft an agreement that addresses your unique situation.
- Restraining Orders & Protective Orders: If you or your children are in danger, our lawyers can help you obtain a restraining order or protective order to provide legal protection and ensure your safety.
- Separation Agreements: A separation agreement can provide a roadmap for the terms of your separation, addressing issues such as property division, support, and child custody. Our attorneys can help you negotiate an agreement that meets your needs.
- Wills and Estates: Every person’s estate plan should be unique and tailored to their specific needs and goals, which is why we take the time to listen to your concerns and work with you every step of the way.