Working through any child custody issue can be difficult. However, being an unmarried father can add another level of complexity to the situation. North Carolina’s state laws try to balance the child’s best interests and the rights of the parents. Whether you are trying to establish paternity or need to seek custody, here is how you can navigate North Carolina child custody laws as an unmarried father.
For married couples, the question of a child’s paternity does not come into play. However, that is not the case for unmarried fathers. The first step of the child custody process is establishing paternity. These individuals must take a few steps to confirm they are the biological father.
One of the most common ways to establish paternity is through the voluntary acknowledgment process. Both parents will sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity. This legal document allows fathers to be recognized and gain rights to their child or children.
If there is a paternity dispute, the court may order genetic testing to determine biological parentage. Once paternity is legally determined, unmarried fathers will have custody rights and be responsible for the child.
Legal and Physical Custody
With paternity established, unmarried fathers can pursue both legal and physical custody of their children. Legal custody allows the father to make decisions for his children. These major decisions can include everything from education to religious upbringing. The courts will award this custody on a sole or joint basis.
On the other hand, physical custody is slightly different. This type of custody determines where the child will have their primary residence. Sometimes, the child can live with both or only one parent. In any case, the courts want to make sure that the environment is a stable and safe place for the child.
Best Interests of the Child
North Carolina’s child custody laws always consider the child’s best interests. When making custody decisions, the court assess:
- The emotional and physical well-being of the child
- The quality of the relationship with each parent
- Any history of abuse or neglect
Any legal or physical child custody agreement will prioritize the child’s overall welfare.
How to Make Custody Arrangements
The courts encourage both unmarried fathers and mothers to work towards voluntary custody agreements. These agreements will detail the responsibilities of each parent. Along with that, it addresses visitation schedules, decision-making authority, and financial obligations. The courts may create a mandatory custody arrangement if an agreement cannot be reached.
Enforcement of Custody Orders
Once you have an established child custody order, you have the legal right to enforce it. Both parents are expected to adhere to these court orders. If they fail to do so, then you may have to go to court and represent a hearing. The uncooperative party could face significant legal consequences for any non-compliance.
Do You Need Legal Representation?
Unmarried fathers are advised to seek legal representation in these cases. A North Carolina family law can assist with establishing paternity, understanding custody agreements, and representing the father’s interests in court. There are always challenges in the legal process. Some fathers may need help when it comes to paternity disputes, custody agreements negotiation, and potential court proceedings. Having access to an attorney can help you navigate throughout this process.
We Can Assist With Family Law Issues in North Carolina
As an unmarried father, you need to take a few more steps to gain custody of your child. This process is often complicated, and you need an experienced family law attorney on your side.
If you want to learn how to navigate North Carolina’s child custody laws as an unmarried father, Stephen E. Robertson Law Office is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for your case. Call us at 336-370-6760.