Experienced Help For Child Custody And Visitation Matters
Pick up any newspaper or journal and you are bound to see confirmation in study after study that the rate of divorce and separation continues to rise. This rise in the breakup of relationships also translates to a rise in the number of children who come from broken homes. Today, almost half of all children grow up in a home without both parents.
There has also been a transformation creating alternative family structures which may create new and additional issues involving the placement of children. While there are many reasons for the decline in the numbers of intact homes; as parents contemplate separation, they need to learn the custody and visitation options available to them, as well as the standards applied by the courts in deciding these issues, so they can make the best decisions for their children.
In North Carolina, if a matter is brought before the court regarding custody or visitation of children, the court determines the same using the “best interest” test — in other words, where, when and with whom, and under what conditions or restrictions are the children better off. The court makes this determination only based upon the evidence submitted at trial.
It is important to have experienced and skilled family law attorneys who are familiar with the rules of evidence and courtroom procedures to present your evidence. At Bull & Reinhardt, PLLC, we have over 45 years of combined experience to assist with your custody hearing. Generally, the court will receive evidence that may include:
- Testimonial of both parties
- Their expressed desires in regard to the placement of the child(ren)
- The availability of each parent and work schedules
- Reviewing the parents’ mental and physical ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment
- The existence or absence of any domestic violence in the home, or other safety concerns
- Examining the children’s age and wishes depending on the age of the child
- Expert opinion from a child or family psychologist
Determine Which Child Custody Option Is Best
After receiving all the evidence, the court has several options and variations of these options to choose from in structuring the custody decree they feel is in your child(ren) best interest:
- Primary or sole custody: In this situation, the children are physically placed primarily in the care, custody, and control of one of the parents. As such, the “custodial” parent not only has the children a majority of the time but also has the final decision-making authority for the children. This includes making a decision as to school placement, extracurricular activities, medical decisions, etc. The other parent has rights to visitation if the court finds the same to be in the children’s best interest. There is also a presumption that if the primary custodial relocates, the move is in the best interest of the child.
- Joint custody: Often confused with shared custody, joint custody does not refer to the physical sharing of the children but of the sharing of the decision-making among the parents, as if they were still together in an intact relationship. Joint custody is often coupled with shared custody to work out a more equal division of time each parent has with the children.
- Shared custody: In this setting, the physical placement of the children is more equally split between the parents, in an effort to maximize both parents’ time with the children. While this is the ideal setting for all parties, it requires the parents to live in relative proximity to each other and to be able to communicate without hostility concerning the needs of the children. Studies have shown that when both parents are involved with their children on a day-to-day level, not only do the children have less of a negative effect as a result of the divorce, but there is a sharp decrease in the number of disputes between the parents over issues such as support and schedule modification.
Assess Your Child’s Needs For Custody And Visitation
The best resolution of custody disputes occurs when the parents are able to act rationally with one another in assessing their children’s needs, put their emotions and differences aside and initiate a plan which is in the best interests of the children. Parents should also be reminded that no matter what the final result, when there are children involved in a separation, the parents will be forced to continue dealing with each other, absent a showing of abuse.
Early involvement with a family law attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with these matters can help not only to give the client guidance but also to assist in achieving the best possible resolution for the client and the children, and doing so in a manner which limits confrontation between the parents.
After reviewing our FAQ page on child custody and support, please feel free to contact our office online or call 828-348-8053 to schedule an initial consultation with an Asheville-area child custody attorney. We serve clients throughout western North Carolina.