There are few things more stressful during a divorce than deciding on child custody. These situations are often very delicate, causing courts to often fall back on their own personal judgements. Furthermore, opportunities for appeal in custody cases are few and far between, and trial court custody decisions are rarely overturned. Because of this, it is of paramount importance that you have an experienced child custody lawyer fighting for you and your child’s best interests. I am committed to helping you maintain a relationship with your children and finding workable solutions to any issues that arise.
There are a few different types of child custody: physical custody, legal custody, sole custody, and joint custody. Physical custody refers to the parent with the right to have the child living with them. This applies when a child lives primarily with one parent (often referred to as the “custodial” parent), and the other (the noncustodial parent) has visitation rights. Having legal custody of a child refers to having the right to make decisions regarding their upbringing (schooling, medical care, etc.). Sole custody is generally only awarded if one parent is deemed unfit (for example, because of child abuse charges, or drug/alcohol problems). In many states, including North Carolina, courts are moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent, instead favoring joint custody arrangements that allow for both parents to be involved in the upbringing of the child. When parents do not live together but share decision-making responsibilities and physical custody of their children, that is considered joint custody.
Temporary Child Custody
Since the legal process in divorce proceedings can oftentimes take many months, temporary child custody establishes how parents will handle shared parenting until the final custody arrangement is determined. Although considered “temporary”, the temporary custody order can oftentimes lay the groundwork for the permanent order, so it can end up having long lasting effects. For this reason it is highly advisable to seek an experienced attorney’s assistance with matters of temporary child custody.
Permanent Child Custody
Permanent Child Custody orders replace any prior temporary orders. This decision is always based upon the best interest of the child. Important factors with which the court takes into consideration are: the child’s physical and emotional development and wellbeing, continuity of the child’s schooling, activities, etc., and the mental and physical health of the parents.
Modification of Custody Orders
While custody orders are never truly “permanent”, permanent custody orders can be difficult to modify. If the parents agree on the changes, they will then need to file a motion to modify the custody order and submit it to the judge for approval. If the parents do not agree on the changes, it gets much trickier. In those cases, the only way that permanent orders can be modified is if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, which would affect the welfare of the child. Examples of these significant changes in the lifestyle of a parent include: remarriage, considerable change in employment hours, or relocation.
No matter how difficult a divorce or breakup may be between parents, the needs and wellbeing of the child should always come first. Child support cases arise to ensure these needs are met, due to circumstances such as divorce, paternity, or non-parental custody. Child support cases can often be very complex, which requires the attention of an experienced, knowledgeable attorney. As your attorney, I will work tirelessly to ensure your child receives the monetary support they are legally entitled to.
It is also possible to petition the court for a modification of child support if a life-altering event (such as a job change or serious illness) might make the existing child support order unfair.
If your ex-spouse is not complying with the child support payments, I can help you to legally enforce the orders so that you are able to receive the payment your child is entitled to.