Family Law Attorneys Seeking Justice for Your Child Custody Case
Child custody can become a contentious issue in a relationship separation or divorce. Every parent has strong ideas about how his or her children should be raised and no one wants to sacrifice their time with their children. This can cause child custody to become a flashpoint in a divorce. At Irons & Irons P.A., we know from experience that effective advocacy on this issue can prevent unnecessary conflict and help our client secure the child custody agreements he or she needs.
Part of how we achieve our clients’ goals is by limiting the number of cases we take. We do not get overloaded, which enables every client to receive the full attention he or she deserves. We get to know our clients and their children so that we can help craft child custody agreements that are tailored to their real lives.
Physical Vs. Legal Custody
- Legal custody — This is the right to make decisions regarding religion, health care, education and other major life choices for your child. Although joint legal custody is granted in the vast majority of cases, it may not be appropriate in certain instances. For example, if a parent has abused or neglected the child, then the other parent may seek primary or sole legal custody to protect the child and his or her best interests.
- Physical custody — This refers to where the child lives or the number of overnights with each parent. The physical custody arrangement dictates how child support is calculated and the applicable worksheet. In most instances, the court will designate one parent as the primary physical custodian and the other parent as the secondary physical custodian and calculate child support pursuant to Worksheet A. In a limited number of cases, the court may award shared physical custody which approaches an even split of time spent with the child and calculate child support pursuant to Worksheet B.
Contested Vs. Collaborative Child Custody
- Contested child custody — This is defined as a scenario when a child’s parents are unable to agree on a custodial schedule. These types of child custody cases can become costly very quickly, as there’s a high likelihood that you will be required to meet with several state agencies and social service professionals that are concerned with your child’s welfare if your case makes it to court. It is highly recommended that those going through a contested child custody case is up-to-date with North Carolina’s court-order arrangements.
- Collaborative child custody — This is defined as a scenario where each parent and their respective collaborative family law attorney are able to agree on a custodial schedule that fits everyone involved. This type of collaborative family law entails each parent retaining individual attorneys and signing an agreement stating they will not go to court in order to come to an agreement to resolve their child custody case and is designed to make challenging times more manageable.
Common Child Custody Arrangements
- Sole Custody — One parent is awarded the main custodian of the child. The child will spend the majority of his or her time with the main custodian and the other parent will be granted limited visitation rights. Medical attention and education-related decisions will be made by the primary custodial parent exclusively. Sole custody is primarily designed for cases with one parent who has been abusive, involved with crime, or involved with drug use, but other factors can come into play depending on the specific case.
- Joint Custody — Each parent is awarded both legal and physical custody of a child. Each parent has completely equal input in which medical services the child will receive and which schools the child will go to. These arrangements almost always take form in rotating week blocks. In other words, the child is with parent A for one week, and then with parent B the following week.
- Shared Custody — One main custodian of the child with the other parent granted sufficient visitation rights and decision making input. Visitation rotations may vary but mainly consist of parent A having the child every other week and every other weekend and vice versa.
Child Custody Agreements
A child custody agreement is a written document that contours the regulations for child custody between the child or children and the parents. These agreements are almost always issued in sync with a separation or divorce proceeding and feature guidelines such as
- Which parent is granted physical custody of the child
- How much time each parent will have with the child/children, typically defined by an agreed-upon percentage
- Which parent is granted legal custody of the child
- Visitation rights for the non-custodial parent
- Visitation and custodial rights for grandparents, close relatives, and close family friends
- Child support furnishings (typically distributed on a monthly basis)
Informal Child Custody Agreements
Informal custody agreements are made out of the courtroom and do not take precedence over court-ordered custody agreements. These agreements are not legally-binding and can take form of a verbal conversation or a letter written by a parent highlighting their bandwidth for visitation. These agreements are not documented and enforced through a court order, so it’s imperative that each parent cooperates and agrees on the general details when it comes to raising their child/children.
Formal Custody Agreements
Formal custody agreements, also commonly referred to as custody orders, come into play if parents are unable to reach an agreement on visitation rights and other details associated with raising their child/children. The court will draft up and provide a legally-binding order after hearing each parent’s reasoning as to why they deserve their desired custodial rights. If the case makes it to trial, the court will enter an order based on the best interest of the child concerning parental visitation and custody. The order will clearly define with duties and rights on each parent such as a structured and predictable visitation schedule and geographic limitations on moving with the child.
If no agreement is filed, the North Carolina law deems each parent with equal rights to custody of their child/children at all times. Parents cannot enforce custody complaints or informal agreements without formal custody agreements. Each parent must go through the required custody procedure in order to enforce their agreements or file a custodial complaint.
What Does The Child Best Interest Standard Mean in Court?
When it comes to determining the best interests of children during a divorce or parental separation, judges’ decisions prevail over parents’ desires. Courts typically prefer to mediate and amicably work out visitation and custodial details rather than litigating the issue, but not all couples are able to come to fair agreements on their own. More often than not, parents who are able to successfully reach visitation and custodial agreements have more control in the overall outcome when compared to parents who are not.
Protective orders are accessible if one parent feels that their child is at-risk by the other parent. Common examples of when protective orders would come into play include if a parent is attempting to flee the state with their child and if a parent is using drugs or drinking with their child underage. One of the most common protective orders is the 50-13.5 d3 act, which allows one parent to take immediate physical custody of their child because the other at-fault parent has either threatened to flee the state with the child or has put the child in some sort of substantial risk.
Judges often consider numerous factors such as:
- Age and desires of the child — Many North Carolina judges will consider children’s’ preferences as a significant factor as long as they display a notable level of maturity, but the parental stability and overall capacity to care for their children are the most crucial factors.
- Parental stability — Parents that have travel-heavy job obligations often have a tough time securing residential custody when compared to parents that have more orthodox, 9-5 job obligations. Households with more routine and ordinary schedules are considered more stable and accommodating for children.
- Capacity to care for the child — Physical and mental health of each parent. Parents with serious mental health diagnosis may be deemed unfit to have residential custody of their child. Along with that, parents that are cooperative with the other parent and the other parent’s family members are often granted decision-making over parents who are confrontational and difficult to result with.
- Parental criminal history — Judges consider offenses related to drug use and violence behavior unfavorable for children. These types of charges often interfere with parents’ ability to hold down stable income which is imperative when it comes to having the capacity to take care of their child.
- Environmental Friendliness — Safety of each parent’s neighborhood, proximity to other extracurricular activities, and proximity to quality school districts are each factors that will be taken into heavy consideration by North Carolina judges.
A court will incorporate these factors into their decision on where the child or children should spend the majority of their time.
When can a child decide which parent they want to live with?
In most cases, children are able to speak to judges themselves at or around age 12. In order to be granted permission to make decisions on their own, the child must be competent and show no signs of the inability to think for themselves. Judges do not let the children make the entire choice themselves but do take childrens’ requests into consideration. Other factors such as parents’ capacity to care for their children, parents’ environmental living conditions, and criminal history (if any) of the parents are also taken into consideration along with a child’s request.
Can my child custody agreement be modified?
Life changes, and we know that. As children grow older, their child support may need to be adjusted too. The family law attorneys at Irons & Irons P.A. are well-versed and experienced when it comes to child custody modification. We have helped numerous families make necessary adjustments to their child support after determining the level of appropriate child support.
Having a skilled child support attorney representing you during the determination of child support adjustment is the assurance is one main key factor. For example, for many people determining income is straightforward and simply requires a look at year-end tax forms; for others, like independent contractors or business owners, determination of income can be much more complicated.
We work to ensure that all relevant information is appropriately considered to help you receive the child support amount that is right for your situation.
Parental Alienation Syndrome and Child Custody Cases
- Definition — Prevalent in many family law cases, parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is the result of psychological manipulation of a child. This manipulation will cause a child to display fear, discomfort, distrust, and hostility toward one parent while clinging onto the other. The rejected parent is then faced with a broken dynamic between them and their child, causing emotional confusion and trauma that can be extremely difficult to reverse and rectify.
- What To Look For — The most common instance of parental alienation is when one parent attempts to prevent the other parent from having an ongoing relationship with their child. When this occurs between a parent and a younger child, say, between the ages of 5 through 12, the child may not grasp what’s actually going on. The child may hear what the disparaging parent is saying about the other parent, but not understand what the disparaging parent’s desired outcome is (which is to have his/her reject the other child.) When it comes to proving parental alienation, it is highly recommended to pay close attention to who the child spends significant time with. Electronic communications between each parent and social media are both worth analyzing, as it’s extremely common for the disparaging parent to admit their fault(s) unknowingly. There are several common witnesses of parental alienation that can support the disparaging parent by reinforcing their points. A few examples are uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, close friends, teachers, grandparents, coworkers, coaches, and nannies.
- Dealing With The Aftermath — It’s also highly recommended that you consult with a child custody evaluator if you suspect your child has been manipulated into rejecting one parent and is suffering from PAS. What is a child custody evaluator? Child custody evaluators entail a psychologist interviewing the child, each parent, and also any collateral witnesses. After each interview is complete, psychological testing will take place on the child and a recommendation will be made to the court concerning next steps.
Hire A Child Custody Lawyer, A Strong Advocate For You
At Irons & Irons, P.A., of Greenville, North Carolina, we know the importance of providing exceptional representation and superior personal service on child custody matters. Child custody matters can be very stressful and it is reassuring to know that your case is being well handled. One of the strengths our child custody attorneys offer is a focus on creating successful resolutions to extremely complex child custody cases. We are proud to be able to help people secure the child custody agreements they need no matter how challenging the circumstances.
Tips for Child Custody Disputes From Greenville, NC Family Attorney, Gib Irons
Contact The Greenville, NC Family Law Attorneys of Irons & Irons
When you are facing child custody issues, you need to know that your parental rights are being protected and that you will be able to protect your relationship with your children. To schedule an initial consultation with the family law attorneys at Irons & Irons P.A. call 252-215-3000 or fill out our contact form below.