Experienced New Bern Attorneys Tackle Child Custody Disputes
Aggressive protection of your parental rights and your children’s welfare
When you are a parent, your relationship with your child is one of the most important aspects of your life. If you are going through a divorce, certain adjustments have to be made, but you still have a right to maintain your loving relationship and exercise your parental authority for the good of your child. At the Carolina Law Group, our family law and divorce attorneys assert your parental rights and take affirmative steps to safeguard your child’s welfare. In many cases we are able to create a manageable parenting plan through negotiations or mediation, saving you time, stress and expense. But when the other parent is unreasonable, we can litigate the issue aggressively and skillfully to obtain a favorable result.
The basics of child custody in North Carolina
Although most child custody disputes arise during or after a divorce, an unmarried father can assert rights to custody or visitation after establishing paternity. There are two types of child custody under North Carolina law:
- Physical custody — The rights and responsibilities connected with providing a residence for the child
- Legal custody — The authority to make decisions affecting the child’s health and welfare
Each type of custody can be awarded three ways:
- Sole — Held exclusively by one parent
- Primary — Shared, but weighted in one parent’s favor
- Joint — Shared on an equal basis
In deciding child custody issues, the family law court considers the totality of the facts to determine what arrangement would be in the best interests of the child, so decisions allow for various combinations, based on the children’s needs. For example, sole physical custody with joint legal custody might be appropriate if it serves the children’s best interests to live exclusively in the home where they have been raised. Joint physical custody with primary legal custody might be appropriate if the parents have conflicting notions of how to raise their children and the court wishes to give one parent the final word on certain issues. Under most circumstances, the custody arrangement does impact the award of child support.
Issues with parental visitation in North Carolina child custody arrangements
If one parent receives sole physical custody, the court generally awards the other parent visitation. The noncustodial parent is allowed frequent, meaningful visits with the child, and it is the duty of the custodial parent to have the child ready for visits. Interference with visitation can be grounds to modify the parenting plan and award joint custody.
However, if there is a question of a parent’s fitness, the court investigates to determine whether continuing contact with that parent would not be in the child’s best interests. The court can order supervised visits, where a court-appointed person would observe the interactions between parent and child. The court can put appropriate restrictions on visitation and can even deny visitation if necessary to protect the child.
Modification of custody and visitation orders in North Carolina
Even the best laid plans for child custody require occasional adjustment. Because your children grow and your life circumstances change, you should expect to revisit your parenting plan every three years under the best of circumstances. Generally, it’s possible to amend your custody arrangement through negotiation or mediation and present the new plan to the judge for approval. However, there are times when litigating child custody may be necessary.
Two types of conflicts that frequently arise are:
- Interference with visitation — If a custodial parent does not ensure that children are ready for visitation, or worse, attempts to alienate the affections of the child from the noncustodial parent, the court can order the parents to share custody or award sole physical custody to the noncustodial parent.
- Relocation — If a custodial parent wishes to relocate out of the state or at a distance that would burden the other parents’ rights, the court can order a time-sharing arrangement or prohibit the move. As in all cases, the court looks at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the move would be in the best interests of the children.
Our attorneys provide the same assertive representation in post-divorce custody disputes to secure the best outcome possible under the facts of your case.
Contact our New Bern attorneys to assert your child custody rights
Your loving relationship with your child depends on a fair resolution to your child custody case. The experienced attorneys at the Carolina Law Group in New Bern skillfully assert your rights to obtain favorable outcomes. Call us at 252-636-3737 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with an accomplished family lawyer.