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How is 'visitation' decided in North Carolina child custody?

We've previously discussed several aspects of child custody cases in North Carolina. As many readers will no doubt remember, child custody can be decided as part of a divorce proceeding, or as a separate petition, sometimes along with other issues such as paternity and child support. A few weeks ago, we touched on the differences between 'sole' and 'joint' custody. To refresh, sole custody is given to one parent, while both parents are involved in a joint custody arrangement.

Readers might also remember that there is legal and physical custody. While legal custody, that is, the right and responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child, is usually held jointly except in certain situations, physical custody is more likely to go to one parent or another, if only due to practical considerations. When one parent has physical custody, however, the other parent will generally be allowed to see the child for some periods of time. This is known as 'visitation.'

But how does a court decide a visitation schedule? In North Carolina, there are no hard and fast rules as to how to determine visitation. In many cases, the parents will agree on a schedule, one that both parties can work with. Other times, a court might impose one to allow a child to have access to a relationship with both parents, even if the custodial parent is not keen on the idea. The most important consideration, as with most issues in family law, is that the visitation be in the best interest of the child.

Obviously, in some circumstances, such as cases of abuse and the like, visitation may not be in a child's best interest. In these situations, the court may disallow visitation. The court can also place some restrictions on visitation, such as making it supervised, or not allowing a parent to have alcohol during the visit. As these matters can be complicated and contentious, those with questions about their rights in terms of child custody and visitation may wish to consider seeking out an experienced North Carolina family lawyer.

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