Child custody battles can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. When parents separate or divorce, determining who should have custody of their child is a significant decision that impacts the child’s well-being. If you are seeking custody of your child, it’s essential to be well-informed and prepared for the process.
Types of Child Custody in North Carolina
Before you embark on the process to gain custody, it’s crucial to understand the various types of child custody arrangements:
- Legal Custody: This involves decision-making authority over important aspects of a child’s life, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.
- Physical Custody: Physical custody relates to where the child primarily resides and spends their time.
- Sole Custody/Full Custody: One parent has both legal and physical custody, while the other parent typically has visitation rights.
- Joint Custody: Both parents share legal and/or physical custody, and decisions are made collaboratively.
Requirements to Get Custody of a Child
Obtaining custody of a child in North Carolina, as in many other U.S. states, is determined by a court process that takes into consideration the best interests of the child. The specific requirements and factors considered by the court in North Carolina may include the following:
- Best Interests of the Child: The primary consideration of the court is the best interests of the child. The court will assess which living arrangement and custody arrangement will promote the child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.
- Child’s Preference: The child’s preference, if they are of a certain age and maturity, may be considered by the court. However, the weight given to their preference can vary depending on their age and other factors.
- Parental Fitness: The court will assess the fitness of each parent to care for the child. This includes factors like stability, emotional connection, and their ability to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs.
- Co-Parenting Ability: The willingness and ability of the parents to cooperate and co-parent effectively is important. The court may consider each parent’s ability to facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Criminal Record and History of Abuse: The court will consider any history of domestic violence, abuse, or criminal behavior of either parent.
- Home Environment: The suitability and stability of each parent’s home environment are crucial. This includes factors like the safety of the residence, the child’s access to necessary amenities, and the neighborhood’s safety.
- Work Schedule and Availability: The court may assess each parent’s work schedule and availability to care for the child, as well as their ability to provide for the child’s basic needs.
- Parenting Plan: Having a well-thought-out parenting plan can be beneficial. This plan should outline how the parents will share custody, including visitation schedules, transportation, and other details.
When Should You Consider Filing for Full Custody?
Filing for full custody of a child is a significant legal step and should be considered carefully. It is typically pursued when one parent believes that granting them sole custody is in the best interests of the child. Here are some situations and circumstances where you might consider filing for full custody:
- Safety Concerns: If you believe the other parent poses a risk to the child’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being due to issues like substance abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or a history of abusive behavior, seeking full custody may be necessary to protect the child.
- Parental Unfitness: If the other parent is consistently unable or unwilling to provide proper care for the child, such as maintaining a stable home environment, providing adequate supervision, or meeting the child’s basic needs, you may consider full custody.
- Relocation: If one parent plans to move a significant distance away, potentially disrupting the child’s established routine and relationship with the other parent, full custody may be sought to ensure the child’s continued stability.
- Child’s Best Interests: When it is evident that sole custody is in the child’s best interests, taking into account factors like the child’s preference, school and community ties, and the quality of the parent-child relationship.
- Parental Agreement: If both parents agree that one parent should have sole custody, they can file for full custody jointly, making the process smoother and less contentious.
- Parental Alienation: If one parent is actively trying to alienate the child from the other parent, making it difficult for the child to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents, full custody may be sought to address this issue.
- Child’s Wishes: If a child who is old and mature enough expresses a strong preference to live with one parent over the other, the court may consider this in a full custody determination.
- Violation of Existing Custody Order: If one parent consistently violates an existing custody order, making it impossible for the other parent to have a meaningful relationship with a child, a parent may consider seeking full custody as a way to enforce the existing order.
- Abandonment: If one parent has abandoned the child for an extended period, it may be a valid reason to seek full custody.
It’s important to note that seeking full custody should not be motivated by a desire to limit the child’s relationship with the other parent or as a way to punish the other parent. The court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. It’s also crucial to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law to understand the specific laws and procedures in your jurisdiction and to assess the merits of your case before filing for full custody.
How to Get Full Custody of a Child in NC
Obtaining full custody of a child in North Carolina is a legal process that involves several steps. It’s important to remember that the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. To seek full custody, you typically need to follow these steps:
- Consult with an Attorney: It’s highly recommended to consult with an experienced family law attorney in North Carolina. They can provide guidance, help you understand the legal process, and represent your interests in court.
- File a Complaint: You’ll need to file a motion or complaint for custody with the appropriate family court in the correct county. Your attorney can help you with this paperwork, which will outline your reasons for seeking full custody.
- Serve Notice: After filing the motion or complaint, you must serve notice to the other parent, informing them of the legal action.
- Mediation: In North Carolina, mediation may be required before proceeding to court. Both parents will participate in a mediation process to try and reach an agreement on custody. If an agreement is reached, it can be presented to the court for approval.
- Custody Evaluation: In some cases, the court may order a custody evaluation. A trained professional will assess the child’s situation and recommend a custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interests.
- Court Hearing: If mediation does not result in an agreement, the case will proceed to a court hearing. During the hearing, both parents will present their cases, and the judge will consider the evidence and testimony presented.
- Best Interests Evaluation: The judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. Factors such as parental fitness, child’s wishes (if age-appropriate), history of abuse or neglect, stability, and other relevant factors will be considered.
- Child’s Attorney/Guardian Ad Litem: In some cases, the court may appoint an attorney or guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests and make recommendations regarding custody.
- Court Order: If the judge determines that full custody is in the child’s best interests, they will issue a custody order. This order will outline the custody and visitation arrangements, as well as any other relevant terms and conditions.
- Enforcement of the Custody Order: It’s important for both parents to adhere to the terms of the custody order. If the noncustodial parent violates the order, legal action can be taken to enforce it.
Remember that the process may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case, and not all cases result in full custody being granted. It’s essential to work closely with your attorney to present the strongest case possible and to understand the legal requirements and options available in your situation.
How to Win Full Custody as a Mother
Winning full custody as a mother in North Carolina, or in any jurisdiction, involves a legal process that is based on the best interests of the child. The gender of the parent should not be a determining factor in the court’s decision.
To seek full custody as a mother, you’ll need to demonstrate that it is in the child’s best interests. Focus on presenting evidence that supports the idea that full custody is in the child’s best interests, rather than emphasizing your gender. The goal is to ensure the child’s safety, stability, and emotional well-being. Working with an experienced child custody attorney can help you navigate the legal process effectively.
How to Get Custody of a Child as a Father
Gaining custody of a child as a father in North Carolina, or any jurisdiction, is based on the best interests of the child, and the courts are not biased based on gender. Therefore, the process of how to get custody of a child in North Carolina is the same for both the mother and father.
Some actors that directly affect a father’s right to be awarded full custody of a child include:
- The father’s relationship with the child/children
- What is in the best interest of the child
- The father’s financial situation and ability to provide for the child
- The father’s current living situation
- The child’s relationship with his/her mother
Consult an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer
Gaining custody of a child is a significant and challenging process. It requires a deep understanding of the legal system, dedication to your child’s well-being, and the guidance of an experienced attorney. By preparing thoroughly, demonstrating your commitment as a parent, and cooperating with the legal process, you can increase your chances of achieving a favorable custody arrangement.
The family law attorneys at Wilson, Reives, Silverman & Doran know the rights and protections involved with child custody laws in North Carolina. We are committed to securing the best custody arrangements for our clients that meet the needs of parents and their children.
Call us today or use our online form to connect with our lawyers for a consultation.