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After the Divorce: Child Custody and Child Visitation in North Carolina

Divorce ends a marriage, but it should not destroy a family.

That must be the starting point of any discussion about child custody after a divorce. Even after a marriage ends, the children of the divorcing couple should be able to sustain a healthy relationship with each parent. North Carolina divorce law recognizes the importance of keeping the well-being of children as a central concern. Parents ought to keep their children’s best interests in mind, too.

Shaping Child Custody Arrangements after your Divorce

The court handling your North Carolina divorce understands that you and your spouse know your children best, and that you’re in the best position to decide future living arrangements. You are strongly urged to confer with your spouse and come to the court with a child custody agreement.

If you have not been able to come to an agreement on your own, the court will send both of you (and your attorneys) to a confidential mediation session. A neutral third-party negotiator will try to develop a plan for child custody and visitation that both parents will find acceptable. The mediation sessions will not consider any economic issues, such as alimony or child support. If a deal is reached, it will be written down, signed by both parties, and submitted to the court. Unless the judge finds a reason to object to the agreement, she will include that as part of the court order for custody after the divorce.

If No Meeting of Minds is Possible

If you and your spouse cannot agree on a custody plan for your minor children, the judge will make the decision. The North Carolina General Statutes set forth the rules on child custody in Chapter 50, Section 13.

At her discretion, the judge can award joint custody to both parents under a specific time sharing schedule. The judge can also award sole custody to one parent or—if neither parent is a suitable custodian—to another person or organization that can best promote the welfare of the child. In her final custody order, the judge will explain her reasoning behind each child custody determination.

A history of family violence will be crucial in shaping the judge’s custody decision. The judge will not assign custody to a parent where the child is likely to be exposed to domestic violence, and may even restrict visitation rights for parents who have a history of violent behavior.

No checklist of issues exists that the judge will consider in making her decisions on the physical custody of children after a divorce. Instead, the judge will look at the entire pattern of relationships surrounding each child. You can expect that the court will consider the following factors:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child
  • How well the child gets along with parents, siblings, grandparents, and other people living in each household
  • The child’s relationships in his neighborhood, school, and church
  • Each parent’s willingness and ability to promote a healthy and close relationship between the child and the other parent

Getting the Result you want

If you believe the judge needs to consider a particular issue in making a child custody decision, you will have to raise the point through your North Carolina family law attorney. Your lawyer can demonstrate to the judge that this particular factor will have a critical influence on the well-being of your daughter or son after the divorce.

You need legal representation in a North Carolina child custody dispute to prevent the other side’s attorney from crushing your rights as a parent. Let us help you. Speaks Law Firm has experienced Wilmington child custody attorneys with solid records in achieving the results clients want in child visitation and custody cases. Call us today at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 to see how we can work on your behalf.