As a parent going through a separation or divorce, you may have many questions about your future with your children. For instance:
- Will you have a voice in major decisions about your children’s welfare?
- Will the children live with you?
- If they do not live with you, will you have visitation rights?
At Strickland Agner Pittman, our skilled and experienced Goldsboro child custody lawyers understand how stressful it can be to face these issues whether it be in Kinston, Goldsboro or Snow Hill. We can provide the calm, professional and compassionate legal assistance that you need during this difficult time. We can help you by:
- Seeking a child custody agreement through negotiation or mediation.
- If necessary, obtaining a child custody ruling and order taking your child custody case to trial whether it be in Wayne, Greene or Lenoir County.
- Requesting a modification of your existing child custody arrangement.
Don’t let child custody issues overwhelm you. Instead, work with a law firm that will fight for you and pursue the most positive outcome for you and your children.
Please call or connect with us online today. We can discuss your case in a confidential consultation at our offices in Goldsboro or Kinston.
Who Is Entitled to Child Custody in North Carolina?
At one time, North Carolina followed “tender years” doctrine. This doctrine presumed that the mother should have custody of a child during his or her youngest years.
Today, no such presumption exists. It does not matter whether you are the mother or father. Instead, custody is based on what will promote the best interests and welfare of the child.
You should note that North Carolina law favors a child’s natural parents in child custody disputes over non-parents such as grandparents or other relatives. However, non-parents can overcome this presumption by showing that the natural parents have abused, neglected or otherwise failed to promote the child’s best interest and welfare.
What Types of Child Custody Arrangements Exist?
When parents separate in North Carolina, they must address two basic custody issues:
- Physical custody – Where will the children live?
- Decision making – Who will make major decisions for the children such as where they attend school or what type of medical care they receive?
A child custody arrangement can address these issues in different ways. For example:
- Primary custody – One parent has both legal custody and primary physical custody, while the other parent has visitation/secondary custody rights.
- Joint custody – The parents share legal custody and physical custody. However, even in a shared physical custody arrangement, the children may spend more time with one parent than the other.
At Strickland Agner Pittman, we will pay close attention to the custody arrangement that you believe works best for you and your children, and we will work hard to reach that objective.
Can Parents Agree on a Child Custody Arrangement?
You do not need to go to court in order to work out a child custody arrangement in North Carolina. With our law firm at your side, you may be able to settle your custody issues and obtain a court order without the need for extensive litigation.
The agreement can be as general or as specific as you and the other parent would like. For instance, it can spell out which parent makes certain decisions about the child’s welfare and which decisions they share. It can also establish physical custody and visitation schedules, including who will be with the children on particular holidays or during summer vacation.
We can help you to pursue an acceptable agreement through direct negotiations or through Mediation – Where a neutral third party, or mediator, works with you and the other parent to reach a binding agreement.
Generally speaking, reaching a child custody agreement through negotiation and mediation will be much less expensive and time-consuming than going to court.
After you reach an agreement, we would draft an agreement in the form of a court order for the parties to sign. If the court approves the agreement, it would be entered as a consent order.
If you or the other parent violates the order – for instance, one parent prevents visitation because the other parent has missed child support payments – then that parent could face the consequences of a costly contempt order.
How Will a Family Court Decide Child Custody?
At Strickland Agner Pittman, we realize that some child custody disputes cannot be resolved without going to Family Court for a trial/hearing. If you face this situation, we can present a strong case on your behalf.
Keep in mind: If you take your child custody case to court in Wayne, Greene or Lenoir Counties – as in many other North Carolina counties – you would go through mediation before your case went before a judge.
Also, before a child custody hearing, a judge may order you, the other parent and your children to undergo a custody evaluation.
The judge would make a decision based on this evaluation as well as the evidence and arguments that both you and the other parent present at a hearing.
When a judge decides which custody arrangement will promote the best interest of the child, the judge will take into account many factors, including:
- Both parents’ physical, mental, emotional, moral and spiritual well-being
- Both parents’ caretaking ability
- Both parents’ home environment
- Both parents’ economic situation and earning potential
- Both parents’ availability to the child
- The child’s bonding with other siblings.
If the judge determines that a child is competent to share his or her opinion and desires, the judge may give consideration to his or her preference.
Can Someone Modify a Child Custody Arrangement?
A child custody arrangement is never permanent in North Carolina. If you are not satisfied with your current custody arrangement, we can help you to seek a modification.
For instance, we can help you to negotiate a modification if you previously reached an out-of-court agreement with the other parent.
If you cannot agree with the other parent, we can ask a court to determine an arrangement that would serve the best interest of the children (as if it was an initial custody determination).
If a court previously entered a child custody order, we would work with you to show the court that a modification is necessary due to a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Our Goldsboro, Kinston and Snow HIll Child Custody Attorneys Are Ready to Help You
At Strickland Agner Pittman, we know how important your children are to you. We can ease your stress and focus on pursuing the best child custody arrangement possible for your family. Allow us to put our skill and experience to work for you today. Contact us to discuss your case in a confidential consultation.