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Child Custody Determinations in North Carolina

For parents facing separation or divorce, the custody determination and arrangement for their children is often the most important and at times emotional component of the process. Custody determinations can be complicated and fact specific based on the best interest of the children involved in the custody action. The basics of a custody determination in North Carolina are important for any parent that is considering an initial custody action or a modification of an existing child custody order.

The Best Interest Standard

In North Carolina, child custody is determined by a “best interest of the child” standard. In an initial child custody determination, the presiding judge will hear testimony and evidence concerning what the best interest of the child would be in the future. A custody determination and schedule will be solely based upon what the judge feels is in the best interest of the minor child or children involved in the action.

Legal and Physical Custody

Two types of custody exist in North Carolina: legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right of the parent to make important decisions involving the minor child. A judge may award sole or joint legal custody of a minor child. Sole legal custody gives one parent the ability to decide major decisions for the minor child. Joint legal custody allows both parents to come to agreement on all major decisions for the child. Legal custody involves issues such as healthcare, education and religion.  Physical custody is the determination of where the child will reside. Physical custody may be joint or primary and secondary between the two parents. Joint physical custody requires that the child spend the same amount of time residing with each parent. However, primary and secondary physical custody requires that the child primarily reside with one parent subject to secondary custodial time with the other parent.

A custody determination will consider the best interest of the minor child based on all the information available to the court. The court will determine the legal custody arrangement for the minor child, whether it is sole or joint. The court will then determine the physical custody arrangement for the minor child, joint or primary and secondary. Often a custody order will provide a specific custodial schedule for the parents to follow including custodial exchange days, times and locations as well as any special exceptions for times such as holidays or extra-curricular activities of the child.

Custody actions can be stressful and emotional for the entire family involved. The family law attorneys at Mulligan Epstein are committed to making your custody action as easy and stress free for you and your child as possible. Contact Mulligan Epstein Attorneys today to schedule a consultation to discuss your options for pursuing a child custody claim.