Child Custody in North Carolina: Understanding the Best Interest of the Child
North Carolina family law prioritizes the child’s best interest when it comes to child custody matters. This means that custody decisions are made based on what is believed to be most beneficial for the child involved.
No Presumption of Custody for Mothers
Contrary to common assumptions, North Carolina has no automatic presumption that custody should be awarded to the mother. It is widely recognized that unless a parent is deemed unfit, the involvement of both parents in a child’s life is generally considered to be in the child’s best interest.
The court evaluates various factors to determine which parent best promotes the child’s welfare and interests.
Understanding Physical Custody
Physical custody refers to the child’s living arrangements and can take different forms. In some cases, the child may primarily reside with one parent (the custodial parent) and spend secondary time with the other parent (the noncustodial parent). This can involve weekend visitations or different schedules that suit the parents’ proximity.
Alternatives to Alternating Weekends
In situations where the parents live far apart, making an alternating weekend schedule impractical, the noncustodial parent may have less frequent but longer periods of time with the child during school breaks such as Thanksgiving, winter, spring, or summer break.
Understanding Legal Custody
Legal custody refers to decision-making authority. Generally, both parents can make day-to-day decisions for the child when they have physical custody. However, for major issues such as medical and health needs, education, extracurricular activities, and religion, the court may grant exclusive authority to one parent, assign authority for specific issues to a parent, or require parents to reach mutual agreements on such matters.
Factors Considered by the Court
When determining custody, the court considers several factors, including a history of domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the ages and developmental levels of the children, the financial situations of both parents, and the environment of their respective homes. These factors help the court make a well-informed decision that prioritizes the child’s best interests.