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Overview of how custody in North Carolina works

On Behalf of | Mar 24, 2022 | Child Custody |

Many people in the Winston-Salem area have children in common with a person with whom they no longer have, or no longer want to have, a romantic or familial relationship.

It may be important in these cases for a parent to obtain a formal child custody order by filing the proper legal action, for example, a divorce or a paternity proceeding.

Even if the parents are able to agree on issues involving the children at the time of their breakup, not having a custody order can cause real problems if the parents’ working relationship falls apart.

For example, in North Carolina, the legal parents each have equal rights to raise and have a relationship with their children. If one parent withholds the children from the other parent, without a custody order, the police or the courts will be of little help.

On a related point, a non-parent who is raising or caring for a child for more than just a short time will likely want to consider getting a custody order. The caregiver may not be able to get essential services for the child without one.

North Carolina recognizes two different types of custody

Like other states, North Carolina recognizes two different types of custody, and courts will address both in any custody order or approved agreement between the parents.

Legal custody refers to a caregiver’s ability to make important decisions about the child’s healthcare, education, religion and overall upbringing. If legal custody is awarded jointly, it means the parents will have to agree on these important decisions or refer them to the court. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody, he or she makes these decisions.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. A parent who has sole physical custody will have the kids in his or her care most of the time even if the other parent has some court-ordered parenting time.

If parents share physical custody, then the children will spend a lot of time in each parent’s home. While this need not be a 50-50 split, some parents do spend six months a year each with their kids.

The courts will determine custody based on the best interests of the child

North Carolina courts will look at a number of factors to decide what custody arrangements are in the best interests of the child or children.  The idea is that the court will create an arrangement in which the child can best grow and thrive.

While it is ideal when parents can agree on their children’s best interests, sometimes a court will have to hear evidence and make a decision.