How is child custody determined in North Carolina?

During a divorce, child custody is important to both parents and may be a prominent concern on the minds of both parents and the family. The child custody decree will include provisions for who the child will live with and visitation provisions for the parent that does not have physical custody of the child. It is important to keep in mind that what is in the best interests of the child is always the guiding principle governing child custody determinations.

There are different ways that a child custody order or agreement may be structured. As is true of all divorce-related concerns, the divorcing couple and parents are encouraged to reach as many shared solutions to their divorce-related concerns as possible by working together. In general, physical custody refers to who the child lives with and legal custody refers to who is able to make important decisions for the child. Both physical and legal custody can be joint or sole which means that either the parents will share the responsibilities or one parent will have the responsibilities.

If only one parent has physical custody of the child, however, the other parent will typically enjoy visitation with their child absent certain circumstances preventing it. The family law court considers a variety of factors when determining child custody and what is in the best interests of the child. The family law court will consider the mental and physical health of the parents; the age and sex of the child and the child's wishes, if appropriate; religious and cultural concerns; the need for a continued and stable home environment; the opportunity for interaction with extended family members and support from family; the relationships between members of the household; any adjustment to school and community; and any history of abuse.

While child custody decisions may seem complicated, they are always guided by what is in the best interests of the child. As a result, it is important for parents to understand the factors that go into child custody decisions and can then help to bring about a child custody agreement that is best for their children.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Child Custody Basics," Accessed Aug. 25, 2017

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