Working out child custody and parenting time is one of divorce’s most emotionally charged aspects. In North Carolina, the court system prioritizes the well-being of the child or children involved.
North Carolina courts usually operate under the assumption that it’s in the child’s best interest to have a strong relationship with both parents. With this in mind, judges often lean towards joint custody arrangements unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise. Some considerations that factor into these determinations include the following.
Factors directly related to the child
The child’s age, health and needs matter. Courts may consider the child’s current living arrangements, school situation and emotional ties to each parent. Older children may also be given a voice, although their preference isn’t the deciding factor.
Evaluating parental fitness
The court will scrutinize each parent’s ability to provide the child with a stable, loving environment. This includes physical and mental health, financial stability and willingness to support the child’s relationship with the other parent. Any history of domestic violence, substance abuse or neglect will also weigh heavily on the court’s decision.
Willingness to cooperate
Courts are likely to look favorably on parents willing to work together for the child’s benefit. The ability to communicate effectively and make joint decisions is a significant consideration. However, attempts to alienate the child from the other parent could count against you in court.
The physical distance between the parents’ residences can impact the feasibility of a joint custody arrangement. While it’s not a deal-breaker, logistics related to school, healthcare and extracurricular activities will be considered.
Flexibility of work schedules
Both parents’ work commitments and schedules are considered when allocating parenting time. The court aims for a distribution that allows the child to spend quality time with both parents. Parents with more flexible work schedules may be granted more frequent or extended parenting time rights, although this is balanced against the child’s need for routine and stability.
North Carolina courts often utilize mediation to work out child custody arrangements; however, a judge will step in to decide what must happen if the parents can’t come to an agreement on their own. Understanding your rights and how the court will view specific circumstances of your case may help you make decisions that are informed and proactive in nature. Seeking legal guidance can be helpful in this regard.