Child custody is a legal term that includes a parent’s right to raise, care for, and make decisions regarding a child. Visitation is a secondary form of custody. A parent may be permitted to spend time with the child on a set schedule or under certain conditions. The child custody and visitation arrangement may either be determined by a Judge or by agreement between the parents.
When a parent has sole legal custody, they are permitted to make major decisions about the child. This may occur without consulting the other parent. When a parent has physical custody, a child may be in their care, either full time or part time. But that parent may not necessarily make decisions regarding the child. Legal and physical custody may be held solely by a parent or shared by both parents. Joint custody is when parents share decision making and the child’s residence is shared between the parents. In this case, both parents are required to consult with each other when making major decisions about the child. Examples of this may be where the child attends school or whether not to have a medical procedure.
When the child resides with one parent, the other parent may be permitted visitation. Visitation may occur on weekends, holidays, summertime and other occasions. In most cases, visitation occurs without supervision of the other parent or a third party. Additional contact may occur via telephone or other electronic communication.
There are different ways custody can be obtained. Parents may sign a private custody agreement without Court intervention. If parents are unable to agree on custody and visitation, they have the right to have a Judge decide the custody and visitation schedule. A request for custody must be filed in the county where the minor child resides. After filing and proper notification, both parents are required to attend custody mediation before a Judge decides their case. During the required custody mediation, if the parents agree on a custody and visitation plan they will sign a Parenting Agreement. The Parenting Agreement will be signed by a Judge and becomes an order enforceable by the Court.
When the parents have participated in custody mediation but are unable to agree on a custody or visitation schedule, the matter is decided by a Judge. There is no preference given to either parent when deciding custody. The Judge’s decision in determining custody and visitation depends on the specific circumstances of each family. For child custody and visitation, North Carolina law requires the Judge’s to consider what is in the best interest of the minor child. Once the Judge arrives at a decision, a Court order will be entered specifying the custody and visitation schedule. Custody orders are valid until the child’s 18th birthday. When the child turns 18, the Court no longer has authority to enter custody orders. If you need assistance with a custody case, please contact The Law Office of Stephen Robertson. Our experienced and skilled attorneys can assist you through the process.