If you and your spouse are ready to get divorced, you may be concerned with how to share time with your children once you are separated and no longer living in the same house. North Carolina’s legal standard for determining custody arrangements is “the best interest of the child.” As you can imagine, many divorcing couples have different ideas about what is in their child or children’s best interests.
People often get confused about what “legal custody” means as opposed to “physical custody.” Legal custody refers to decision-making power when it comes to the child’s medical care, education, religious upbringing and other important areas of the child’s life. Physical custody refers to when the child will live with each parent.
Courts rarely grant sole legal custody to one parent, as it is generally accepted that both parents have the right to be involved in major decisions affecting the child. In regards to physical custody, a court’s decision can be based on many factors, including each parent’s ability to raise the child, the parent’s work schedules, the child’s needs and the living situation of both parents. If the child is old enough, the court may consider the child’s preferences when making the final custody decision, although it is not advisable for children to be a part of custody litigation unless it is absolutely necessary.
In some cases, grandparents or other third parties may seek visitation rights to make sure they stay involved in the child’s life after the divorce. Parties seeking visitation rights in North Carolina will need to meet certain requirements under the law, and if these are met, then the court must consider again what visitation would be in the best interest of the child.