Child custody cases often become confusing and even contentious. After your spouse files for divorce, you may find that both of you just want time with the kids. Yes, property division is important, but not as important as your children. As such, you feel like you and your ex end up working against each other.
To make this go smoothly, you want to learn as much as possible about the law in North Carolina. Here are seven important things you should know.
- The court cannot assume that a father or a mother will make a better parent based on their gender alone. They both have an equal claim to time with the children.
- The goal, for the court, is to promote the best interests of the child. If the parents do not get what they want, that is all right. It’s a secondary concern. The court has to put the kids first.
- When determining that one parent will not get custody or visitation rights, the court has to do so because it is not in the best interests of the child or because that parent is unfit. Otherwise, parents should generally get at least visitation rights.
- Visitation and custody are closely linked. The court considers visitation rights to be “a lesser form of custody.”
- When setting up a visitation plan, the court order should address the specifics. It does not just say that one parent has a right to see the children and then leave it for the family to figure out. It will say when they get to have visitation, where it should happen and how it should happen. Any other conditions should also get included.
- Legal custody addresses things like religion, education and medical care. It is not about where the child lives, but about making important decisions on the child’s behalf. Parents can share legal custody and must then work together on these decisions.
- If either parent asks for joint custody, then the court has to consider it. This is true in every case. That does not mean that the court can’t deny it after consideration. But they must at least look into it. Even if the other parent immediately argues that joint custody is against the child’s best interests, for instance, the court still has to consider it and make a determination.
As you can see, the children always sit at the center of the custody agreement. Everything that the court does should put them first.
If you find yourself in a legal battle regarding your children, make sure you know what steps to take. This can be a confusing time that is emotionally difficult, but you do have options.