Child Custody & Visitation

Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh Firm Led By Board Certified Family Law Specialist

Serving the Triangle Area

A huge change for North Carolina families occurred in May, 2011, when Gray Ellis successfully argued in the case Baumann-Chacon v. Baumann that the trial court should have jurisdiction to determine custody and child support immediately prior to the parties physically separating from one another. The Court of Appeals has now agreed that the State's interest in protecting minor children also includes allowing a trial court to enter an enforceable custody and child support order immediately prior to the parents ever separating. Now when parents of minor children plan to separate and divorce but cannot agree on custody of the minor children, they do not have to try to beat the other parent to the school yard to ensure that they will have contact with their children while they are awaiting a court date. This clarification in the law should help minor children feel more secure about what will happen to them immediately after their parents separate.

Child custody is one of the most litigated issues in divorce. Led By Gray Ellis, Esq., one of only a few practicing attorneys in Durham County to be Board Certified by the North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization as a family law specialist, Ellis Family Law can guide you through the process used to determine child custody in North Carolina.

There are two types of child custody in North Carolina:

  • Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make decisions for your child and to access major records, whether educational or medical, for your child. A vast majority of the time, parents in North Carolina will have joint legal custody.
  • Physical custody refers to where the child will live and the amount of time each parent with spend with the child in terms of overnights. In some cases, one parent will have primary child custody and the other parent will have visitation, and in others they will have joint physical custody.

Mediation in Child Custody Disputes

If you and the other parent cannot agree on a child custody and visitation arrangement, the court will refer you to mediation. The only times when mediation may be waived by the court is when there are issues of domestic violence and drug abuse, or when one parent lives more than 50 miles away from the jurisdiction.

The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will provide you a free mediator through your county court system. As your lawyers, Ellis Family Law can answer any questions you have about the process.

If you and the other parent agree on a mediated solution, it will result in a parenting agreement. As your lawyers, Ellis Family Law will review your mediated parenting agreement and make sure you understand it before you sign it. After the judge signs this agreement, it will become a court order.

If mediation is not successful, your next opportunity to resolve your child custody case may be at a temporary hearing before a judge.

Did You Know?

  • Grandparents can seek visitation rights in North Carolina.
  • Third parties can seek child custody in North Carolina. This typically happens when the biological parents are unfit or unable to care for their children.

For more information about child custody and visitation: Call Ellis Family Law at 919-688-9400 or fill out the contact form on this site.

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