In North Carolina, a big deciding factor on who has custody of the child/ren lies in what is best for the child/ren. However, it is not always that simple. Below are some frequently asked questions about child custody in North Carolina.
- I was not involved much in my child’s life before, but now I want to be. Is it too late? – A typical scenario in child custody cases involves one parent being much more active than the other parent in the every day life of the child. This does not mean that it is too late for the parent to spend meaningful time with their child now. A parent can improve their chances of having custody even if they were not around much in the past. The parent can spend time getting to know the child’s routine, what they like and do not like, and what their interests are. Most children will not see this as an attempt to gain custody, but rather an improvement in their relationship with the parent. There are also resources available for parents to learn the basics of parenting that they may have missed out on. In some scenarios, it may be realistic not to expect to be trusted right away, especially with older children or the other parent, but parents can make efforts to show that he or she wants to be involved.
- Can my child decide who s/he wants to live with? – Yes and no. In North Carolina, a judge may consider a child’s preference for custody if the child is mature enough. There is no set definition of “mature enough” but there is North Carolina case law that suggests that a child who is ten or older may be able to provide insight into where they want to live. However, the child’s preference is not the only factor the court will look at.
- Joint or sole custody, what’s the difference? – Joint physical custody means both parents can spend significant time with the children, but the time split does not have to be equal. Joint physical custody is more flexible in nature whereas sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent for more time than the other. Joint legal custody means the parents make decisions about the child’s welfare, including medical care and education. Parents with joint legal custody can often not make important decisions without the permission of the other parent. Sole legal custody means that one parent has final decision-making power if there is a disagreement between the parties.
- Mothers are always favored by the courts, right? – No. In North Carolina, there is no general favoritism over either the mother or the father. The court focuses on the best interest of the child. As long as a parent can provide a stable environment for the child that fosters growth and development, the parent is likely to receive some form of custody.
If you or someone you know is in need of child custody counseling, contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today.