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Four tips for deciding custody out-of-court

In North Carolina, family courts generally prefer divorcing parents to establish a custody agreement for themselves, outside of court. This allows parents to make their decision based on what is best for their family. After all, they understand their family's needs better than any family court could.

However, negotiating a child custody agreement can be emotionally challenging for both parents. How do they know what should influence their agreement, or what special considerations they must take into account?

Here is an overview of some of the factors parents should consider to help them reach a child custody agreement that is best for their family.

1. How willing is each parent to cooperate?

The type of custody arrangement that parents choose depends heavily on whether or not they are willing to cooperate. Most of the time, parents who determine custody outside of court seek a joint custody arrangement. This type of agreement has several benefits, including:

  • Maintaining the child's relationship with both parents;
  • Allowing the child to see positive interaction between their parents; and
  • Reducing the stress of parenting after divorce.

Divorced parents must be willing to collaborate at some level and put their children first to actually reap these benefits. 

2. Are there specific cultural circumstances?

Regardless of the type of custody agreement parents choose, they should always consider how they want to continue to raise the child after divorce.

The most common example of this is if one parent has strong feelings about their child practicing a particular religion. Even if a parent has secondary custody in the arrangement, they might be able to add a stipulation that they wish their child to continue to be raised in one religion.

3. What are each parent's career obligations?

As any parent knows, one's job can significantly impact how much time they have with their family. Divorcing parents should take time to evaluate how their duties and commitments will influence the custody agreement.

For example, if a parent's job requires regular travel and the possibility of relocation, then a 50-50 joint physical custody arrangement might not work well.

4. How far do parents live from each other?

This is one factor family courts consider that parents should contemplate as well. Uprooting a child during the already challenging situation of a divorce can be incredibly stressful. Parents may want to consider:

  • The child's connection to the community of their current residence, including their education and social needs; and
  • How the distance between each parent's home will impact the child's transition.

All of these aspects can have a significant impact on the particular child custody arrangement and parenting schedule that parents negotiate for their family's future after divorce.

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