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Child custody laws aimed at the child's best interest

Child custody law in North Carolina is aimed at what is best for children after divorce. Today, more than in the past, the child's wishes are factored into the court's decision-making process.

In 1979, the Uniform Child Custody Act was adopted. It provides uniformity to child custody law across states and fosters a practical approach to jurisdictional issues. There are different types of child custody. Child custody often uses a mix of joint and sole custody.

Legal custody involves decisions about the child's education, medical and other long-term issues. Often, parents share legal custody and decisions are made jointly. It is possible for only one parent to be given legal custody. Sole legal custody may be practical when parents are unable to make joint decisions about the child's welfare. It eliminates the need for deciding each issue based on mutual agreement.

Physical custody describes where the child lives. In the past, joint physical custody was common, but dividing a child's time equally between two parents, with its concomitant schedule demands and cost of maintaining two households, has fallen out of popularity. Courts are inclined to give one parent sole physical custody and award the other parent visitation. Custody is granted based on the child's needs and their relationship with the parents. Whether the parent may provide a stable environment where the child is safe is important.

Parents are not the only ones to be awarded visitation. Grandparents may apply to the court to be granted visitation with their grandchildren. The court often views this as a stabilizing influence, and structured time with grandparents is frequently awarded.

An attorney may help a parent structure an agreement acceptable to both the other parent and the court. The attorney may also help if future modification is needed, such as when parents relocate.

Source: Findlaw, "North Carolina Child Custody Laws", September 02, 2014

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