Every parent has the right—and, some would say, the duty—to maintain close, loving relations with his or her children, even after a divorce.
When you are making plans for your North Carolina divorce, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in your own issues that you don’t give enough thought to your future with your children. You might realize that it’s impossible for you to have full-time physical custody for any number of reasons, such as:
- Your work schedule and lack of access to childcare makes it impossible to care for your child properly.
- Your children are well established in the home you shared with your spouse, and you don’t want to uproot them.
- After the divorce is final, you will be living with your elderly parents, friends, or some other place where there is no additional room for children.
Scientific studies show that a positive, nurturing relationship with both parents is usually best for the long-term wellbeing of young children. You certainly don’t want to lose contact with your kids. So what can be done?
North Carolina parenting time
Fortunately, there are provisions for this circumstance in the legal system. Divorce law in North Carolina allows for visitation, which is increasingly called parenting time by social workers and child advocates. Even if you are not the custodial parent, the court will make a provision for you to spend time with your children according to a specific schedule.
It’s important to recognize at the outset that the right to parenting time is not absolute. Behavior that is harmful to the child—such as domestic violence or abuse, or abandonment of the child—can cause the court to terminate your rights to see your children completely. Other forms of misbehavior may mean that you are allowed contact with your children only during supervised visits (with other people in the room at the same time) for limited periods.
Every family situation is unique, so there is no “standard schedule” for parenting time in North Carolina. A common arrangement might be something as follows:
- Parents alternate weekends with their children: one week will be spent with the custodial parent, and the following weekend at the non-custodial parent’s home.
- Children will alternate spending holidays with their parents.
- Children’s birthdays will be shared or alternated. On parents’ birthdays, the children will spend the day with the parent.
A cooperative attitude and open lines of communication with your ex-spouse will make it easier to set up (and, when necessary, adjust) parental visitation periods. Children of different ages may need different schedules. Older children and teenagers may be consulted on visitation schedules that best fit their own plans.
Grandparents get visitation, too
Unlike some other states, North Carolina allows grandparents to request visitation rights, too. There are a few limitations to this request:
- Grandparents cannot demand rights for visitation when a couple is married. They can petition for visitation rights only after a divorce. Married parents have the right to prevent contact between their children and grandparents if they think that would be best.
- Grandparents cannot receive visitation rights for their biological grandchildren who have been adopted by others.
Preserving your right to visitation
If an irritable ex-spouse has been denying you access to your children, or the circumstances of your original North Carolina child custody orders have changed, you need the immediate assistance of a Wilmington divorce law firm.
At Speaks Law Firm, we can take your case to court to maintain your parenting time and keep you in touch with your kids. Call 910-341-7570 locally or 877-593-4233 toll-free to get the representation you need from our experienced family law team.