As you prepare for your divorce, you are likely concerned about how often you will see your children afterward. Even if you are a fit and loving parent, you may fear your time with them will reduce. Your concerns may feel especially palpable if you and your spouse are going through a contentious split, or if you two will live far apart from each other. Yet, given how North Carolina approaches custody, it is likely you will remain involved in your children’s lives.
Resolving your custody dispute
Under North Carolina law, you and your spouse must mediate your child custody dispute. You will only be exempt from this process if the court issues a waiver – or if you request one. This may happen if:
- You and your spouse are working out a custody agreement with a private mediator
- You and your spouse live more than 50 miles apart from each other
- You or your spouse have a history of child abuse or neglect
- You or your spouse have a history of domestic violence or substance abuse
- You or your spouse have significant mental or emotional issues
If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement in mediation, you will resolve your custody dispute in the courtroom.
Determining your custody arrangement
North Carolina, like other states, recognizes two kinds of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody determines whether you, your spouse or both of you will make decisions about your children’s lives and well-being. And physical custody determines whether your children will live with you, your spouse or both of you. Both kinds of custody can be awarded in joint or sole arrangements.
It is possible you and your spouse will receive joint legal custody of your children, if it is in their best interests. You may receive joint physical custody, too, though in North Carolina, one parent tends to receive physical custody. The other, whether you or your spouse, will have frequent visitation, unless circumstances prevent it or make it unsafe. For sole legal custody to be a factor in your divorce, the court must provide a compelling reason that one of you should not make decisions about your children.
More than likely, you will continue to play an active role in your children’s lives after your divorce. Yet, leaving this outcome to chance is a risky proposition. By consulting a family law attorney, you can work to protect your relationship with your children.