Child Custody 101: Introduction to Custody and Visitation in North Carolina

Navigating the choppy waters of custody, visitation, and their respective terms can be very difficult. Here is an introduction to child custody and how it is applied in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, custody refers to the right to make major life decisions about the child and to have the child in your care.

There are two types of custody which are discussed below.

Physical custody

Physical custody refers to the visitation schedule for which parent will have the child in their care and for how much time. A custody schedule is typically determined on a 14-day basis. For example, a 7/7 schedule would be a 50/50 physical custody schedule where the child spends equal time with each parent. Another example is a 9/5 schedule when the child spends significantly more time with one parent than the other. The facts unique to your matter will determine the best custody schedule for your family.  It is important to note that the schedule does not always run for 7 consecutive days in a row. For younger children, it can be difficult to be apart from a parent for a prolonged period of time so the parties will operate on an alternating 2-2-3 schedule each week which will result in a 7/7 split over the two-week period.

Legal custody

The second type of custody is legal custody, and it refers to who can make decisions regarding the child. Decisions can include, but are not limited to, having authority to determine what school the child will attend, authorizing medical and dental treatments, and deciding what religious/faith upbringing the child will have. Legal custody can be shared and is referred to as joint legal custody, or one party can have sole legal custody. The in-between type of custody is when there is joint legal custody, but one party has final decision-making authority. Both parties can have final decision-making authority but on certain subjects. The goal with final decision-making authority is for the parties to discuss the matter together and come to a mutual resolution but if the parties are in deadlock then one party will be able to make the decision without the need to go to a judge or arbitrator to make a ruling.

Other Important Factors About Child Custody

Custody of the child applies until the child turns 18. Once the child turns 18 years old, they are considered an adult and any custody provisions in place will no longer be enforced by a Court. It is also important to note that both parties have equal custody rights. Up through the 1990s, there was a presumption that a child should spend more time with their mother, especially as a young child, resulting with their father having very few custody rights. It has now been established by the courts that both parents have equal custody rights for a child regardless of the child’s age and factors unique to each family will determine the custody schedule in the best interest of the child. Finally, a claim for child custody can be asserted regardless of whether you are married to the other party. A biological mother of the child does not need to comply with any additional requirements to prove the parent-child relationship, but additional steps may be needed to prove paternity depending on the situation.

The best child custody schedule depends on the unique facts of your family, so it is beneficial to schedule a consultation to learn more information. Contact Skufca Law at 704-376-3030 to schedule your consultation today!