When you and your child’s other parent decide to go your separate ways, having a binding custody agreement is in everyone’s best interest. A child custody agreement should be crafted to meet the child’s needs and best interests. In a challenging family situation, such an agreement may determine where the child lives and equitably divide parenting time.
Parents can reach an informal agreement on their own, or each can have a lawyer help them understand state law and the information the court uses to reach a determination. Having a court order in place can help each parent understand their rights and responsibilities and can make the child’s living situation stable and clear.
Is a Child Custody Order Mandatory in North Carolina?
If parents agree on custody matters, such as where the child will live and how child support will be paid, a custody order is not mandatory. However, an informal custody agreement does not have the binding effect of a court order. A court order for custody is beneficial and can provide clarity for both parents and the child. If a family law lawyer represents you, they can help you create a legal custody court order by agreement.
This agreement will provide one or both parents with decision-making abilities and satisfy requirements that might be mandatory for schools, daycare, and when making medical decisions. A custody agreement can also make it easier to understand child support obligations that ensure the child’s needs are met.
What Is the Difference Between Sole and Joint Custody?
Sole custody can have multiple meanings. According to North Carolina Judicial Branch guidelines:
- Sole legal custody means one parent has the right to make decisions that affect the child’s life on their own without requiring them to consult the other parent.
- Sole physical custody means the child will live exclusively with the custodial parent, though the non-custodial parent might be granted visitation.
Joint custody is another arrangement. Joint legal custody means both parents make decisions for the child together, each consulting the other. When they cannot mutually agree, the courts may step in and make the required decisions.
Joint physical custody means the child spends a portion of their time living with each parent. It can mean each parent has equal time with the child, or one parent has primary custody while another has secondary custody.
For a legal consultation with a lawyer serving North Carolina and South Carolina, call 828.286.3866
When Both Parents Want Custody, How Does the Court Decide Where a Child Should Live?
When parents are breaking up, separating, or divorcing, they may struggle in making decisions regarding the care and custody of their child(ren) on their own. The family court will make this decision after careful consideration based on the best interest of the child. To determine the child(ren)’s best interest, courts consider each parent’s:
- Residence and living arrangements
- Parenting ability
- Relationship with the child
The court will hear each parent’s wishes and preferences, but the child’s best interest is its objective. Under very specific circumstances, the court will address the child directly with the goal of understanding their preferences.
What if I Disagree With the Custody Order or Want to Modify an Existing One?
The process for changing a custody order depends on the type of custody agreement in place. A temporary agreement can require a hearing, while a permanent order can mean filing motions and additional court procedures. To change a permanent custody order, you will have to prove to the court the following:
- One or both parent’s circumstances changed substantially
- These changes affect the child’s life
- A change is in the child’s best interest
You must file a motion to modify and accompany it with all the required paperwork. If a lawyer represents you, they will be familiar with what child custody law means and will assist you in handling the matter.
Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me 828.286.3866
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer to Help With My Custody Case?
Either parent can file for custody of a minor child. The filing process can be challenging even before you get to the actual custody decision. You do not have to face this potentially emotionally charged legal matter by yourself. A lawyer familiar with North Carolina’s child custody laws and procedures can:
- Explain state law and how it affects your case
- Collect and submit the required documents
- Handle all court filings, motions, and hearings
- Represent you at all court appearances
- Challenge any accusations of parental unfitness
You can have a lawyer advocate for you and your child in any custody situation. A lawyer can be especially beneficial if you and the child’s other parent are not in communication, currently reside (or will reside) in different states, or request child support.
Can a Family Law Lawyer Also Help Me Get Child Support?
A lawyer can help you file for child support or amend an existing support order. Per North Carolina Judicial Branch guidelines, there are four possible ways to arrange child support:
- Parents reach a mutual agreement
- Parents sign a Voluntary Support Agreement (VSA)
- Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSE) decides
- One parent files a complaint for child support
All children deserve financial support from both of their parents. Your lawyer will explain how child support is calculated and enforced. A family law attorney can also help you prove financial need and responsibility. They will also explain the other parent’s responsibility and the child’s rights and fight for the best possible outcome for your son or daughter.
Call for Immediate Assistance With Your North Carolina Child Custody Case
If you are filing for custody of your child or looking to amend or modify an existing custody order, we can help. Our law firm will advocate for you in this complex legal situation.
Contact one of our team members today to find out how child custody works in North Carolina and how our family law lawyer at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC, can represent you.