Advocating For Your Parental Rights In Divorce
Child custody is one of the most litigated issues in divorce. With an exceptional legal team that includes several attorneys who are board certified by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as family law specialists, Ellis Family Law, P.L.L.C., 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 their major records, whether educational or medical. Most 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 will 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 other cases parents will have joint physical custody.
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 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 prior to the parents’ separation. 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 schoolyard to ensure 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.
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 time 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).