Understanding Your Custody Options in North Carolina

Each family is different, and therefore, there are many types of child custody which can be used to describe the legal rights of caregivers depending on their particular situation. In some circumstances, more than one type of care can be put in place if it serves the best interests of the child and family. In this blog, we provide an overview of the four different types of custody recognized in North Carolina so you have a better idea of what may work best for your situation.

Legal Custody 

A person who is granted legal custody of a child can make important decisions on their behalf until they can do so for themselves in the eyes of the law. Decisions might include where the child lives, medical decisions, educational decisions, and whether there is a particular religion the child might follow. 

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines how much time a parent or other caregiver is legally entitled to spend with the child. 

Joint Custody 

Joint custody is when both parents share custody of the child and can make important decisions on their behalf (though not necessarily 50/50). Joint custody could include both legal and physical custody, or it could just be one of the two.

Sole Custody 

Sole custody means that only one parent can make important decisions on behalf of the child. When using the term sole custody with regards to physical arrangements, this means the child would only ever live with one parent. The other parent may have visitation rights, which may or may not include overnight visits with the other parent.

Sole decision-making authority could also be granted on specific issues. For example, one parent may have sole-decision making rights about how the child is educated, but all other matters such as religion and medical decisions could be made under joint custody rules.

How Is Custody Decided?

Obtaining child custody in the event of separation or divorce can be a smart decision. If there is no legal ruling in place, challenges may arise if one parent feels the other is not acting reasonably. Those who feel like their parental rights are being violated or ignored may wish to seek legal custody.

In North Carolina, the courts have the final decision on who a child will live with and who has the right to make crucial decisions on their behalf. If parents have managed to work out an agreement amongst themselves, the courts will consider this in most cases too. If parents are at odds with one another regarding sharing responsibilities, the courts will determine what is in the best interests of the child to enable them to make their decision. They will consider a number of factors to help them such as the parent’s ability to care for the child, who usually cares for the child, the safety of the child and the child’s own preferences (especially if they are over 12 years old).

While separated parents are not legally obliged to obtain a court order for custody of their child, it can be helpful to have this in place to ensure consistency and structure and avoid any future disputes. 

Do you need an attorney for your child custody case?

You are not required to hire an attorney, however, doing so can be extremely beneficial. Having an experienced family lawyer to help guide you through the process will ensure that your interests are represented and rights protected. If you are thinking about filing for custody, the knowledgeable attorneys at N.C. Adoption Law Center can help. Get in touch today for a free, confidential consultation.

Written by N.C. Adoption Law Center

N.C. Adoption Law Center

We work hard to provide all our clients with the best and and most helpful legal services. Our attorneys specialize in adoption and other family law cases including divorce, child custody, child support, guardianship, and more.