Child Custody and Visitation
Few things are as emotional or stressful as a separation or divorce, especially when child custody and visitation issues are involved. At Hill Evans Jordan & Beatty, our attorneys and staff understand the emotional turmoil and loss you suffer when dealing with issues related to custody and visitation. As experienced divorce and family law attorneys, we can help you understand the full range of your options and help protect your legal rights and those of your children. You know your family dynamics better than anyone else. For this reason, we recommend that you first, with our guidance and counsel, work towards a resolution of custody and visitation issues through settlement negotiations or mediation. If that proves to be impossible, we will use our experience and skill to represent you in court so that you may achieve the best possible result.
In North Carolina, physical custody refers to the act of having the actual physical care, custody and control of the child while legal custody refers to the parental right to make major decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as those related to health, education and religion. There are a wide variety and range of custodial arrangements. The best arrangement for you will depend on your specific situation. As there is not a best “one-size-fits-all” custody schedule, you need experienced legal counsel to ensure you get the most appropriate custodial arrangement for your situation.
Alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) methods like arbitration and mediation can be used before litigation begins to help the parties resolve their dispute more flexibly and efficiently, and without giving up control to a judge. Regardless of the form of ADR used, the assistance of an attorney is needed to ensure that your legal rights are being adequately protected. Our attorneys can help you choose the type of ADR is the best fit for your situation and then help you prepare for and effectively utilize the ADR process to achieve your custody and visitation goals. We will ensure that the agreement entered into through ADR is drafted to protect your rights and interests, including planning for changed circumstances in the future. It is important to understand that unless the ADR agreement is made part of an official court order, the court cannot modify the agreement at a later date if the parties cannot agree on changes to the agreement.
In North Carolina a custody action may be filed by either parent in District Court in the county in which the child resides. At the trial, both parties will have the opportunity to introduce evidence and testimony that presents their contention as to the best custodial schedule. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will sign a custody order that determines who is awarded the child’s legal and physical custody. North Carolina law requires that the judge make this decision based on the best interest of the child standard.
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The custody order that the judge signs will set forth the specifics of how the parties are to co-parent, including setting forth who has legal custody, who has physical custody, the details of how physical custody is to be shared, any special schedules dividing time around holidays, whether there are any restrictions on either parent, how the child will be transported between the parents’ homes, the method and frequency by which the parents are to communicate regarding the child, the method and frequency by which the parties can communicate with the minor child when they are with the other parent, and other rules on how the parties are to effectively co-parent the child and conduct themselves in relation to that child.
Custody orders (as opposed to agreements entered into outside of court) can be modified when one of the parents successfully shows the court that circumstances have substantially changed since the previous custody order and that those changes have affected the welfare of the child.
Law enforcement personnel will generally not assist you if the other parent is in violation of an order, so you will need experienced legal representation to assist you in enforcing a custody order. A Hill Evans Jordan & Beatty family law attorney can help you enforce the terms of a custody order both informally, and if necessary, formally by pursuing a contempt motion in court.
If you are a grandparent or other third party who is hoping to gain some level of custodial rights, consult a Hill Evans Jordan & Beatty family law attorney to determine whether you are eligible to pursue your claim.
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