In North Carolina, child custody and child support matters are separate legal issues. Custody laws govern the physical control and care of children, and sometimes, dependent adults. Child support, on the other hand, governs the financial obligations parents have for their children whether the parents were ever married and irrespective of whether the parent has daily contact with the child.
North Carolina law tends to encourage agreement on issues of custody. Mediation is frequently a mandatory part of any custody or child support litigation. Frequently parents reach agreements on custody and child support in mediation. There are several types of custody arrangements that the parties might agree to including:
- Joint physical and legal custody – Both parents share substantial and frequently almost equal time with their children. They share information jointly make decisions regarding the education, health and welfare of the child.
- Sole physical and legal custody – The child lives with one parent and that parent makes decisions regarding the education, health and welfare of the child without input from the other parent. The other parent may or may not have visitation.
- Primary physical and legal custody – The child resides the majority of the time with one parent and secondarily with the other. Both parents share information and jointly make decisions regarding the education, health and welfare of the child.
However, some families encounter issues so overwhelming that they are unable to agree and a trial on these issues becomes necessary. These issues commonly include a change in one parent’s location or working hours, a parent’s lifestyle choices following divorce, domestic violence, anger management, addictions and mental illness. A judge will consider a variety of factors at trial including the evidence presented and the court’s perspective relative to the best interest of your children. Based on these and other factors, courts award custody and visitation as well as the permanence of such rulings.
In North Carolina child support is governed by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. In general, these guidelines are considered fair though a court will consider factors that might result in deviations from the guidelines. In child support, as in all other areas of your divorce, the court has discretion to provide a different award when necessary and when in the best interest of the child.
As with all issues surrounding divorce, mediation and creative problem-solving provide parents the strongest opportunity to create solutions to provide for the best interests of the children. When parents cannot find common ground with respect to the support and custody of their children, the family law attorneys at NicholsonPham are trial lawyers.
LGBT Custody Issues
While the North Carolina Supreme Court invalidated second parent adoption, in the Boseman case in 2010, child custody rights for non-biological/legal same sex parents were clarified and strengthened. In particular Boseman and its progeny have provided clear guidance on how LGBT parents (who do not have legal or biological relationship to their children) can protect themselves and their relationship with their children. It is important for LGBT couples who are parents or looking to become parents to understand their rights and obligations regarding their children both during the relationship, and in the event that the relationship (between the parents) were to end. Please see our LGBT Legal Services page for more information specific to LGBT families.