Child Custody And Support FAQ
You’ll receive quality and professional service and advice for your child custody and support cases with Bull & Reinhardt, PLLC. We have over 45 years of experience to ensure you get the best legal assistance for your child. Our office is in a convenient location and there’s parking available.
Q. When is my child old enough to decide which parent he or she wants to live with?
In applying the best interest test, one factor the courts will consider, if the child is old enough, is the desire of the child regarding where he or she wants to live. There is no set age where children are allowed to testify concerning their wishes.
The court looks to each child’s maturity and ability to communicate when it decides whether to talk to the child. The child’s desires by themselves are not binding on the court, but merely another piece of information for the courts to consider. Most important is not what the child wants as far as placement, but why the child prefers this placement.
Q. Do I have to allow my spouse to see the children?
Absent some showing of abuse or threat to the child, it is unlikely that the courts would cut off a parent’s right to see his or her children totally. This does not mean that restriction may not be placed on the visitation which can limit the amount of visitation, make it supervised by an appropriate adult or suspend it during periods of treatment.
Not allowing a parent to see his or her children without good cause has been upheld as a valid reason to modify custody. Consult legal opinion before attempting to deny contact with the other parent.
Q. Can I move out of state with my child?
Child custody, like visitation and support, is always modifiable by the court. As situations change, the court retains jurisdiction to review custody and make changes. Once the court has made a determination of custody, it can change the placement of children only upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances affecting the children.
Relocations out of state, or far away in state, are one factor the courts may consider in determining if the move would constitute a substantial change. Obviously, a move far away can have an impact on the noncustodial parent’s ability to exercise visitation and therefore will be considered by the court. There is no hard and fast rule concerning relocations, and each case must be viewed individually based on the circumstances involved in that case.
Q. Do we have to go to the court if we have agreed on what to do with our children?
The simple answer is no. Oftentimes, we’re able to negotiate and resolve disputes of custody or visitation without the need to initiate legal action. In several ways, this is preferable:
- First, it allows the parties to mold the outcome themselves instead of the courts deciding for them
- Second, because each party is involved in shaping the agreement, usually there are fewer problems of enforcement, as each party has negotiated the final decision in a manner he or she can live with
- Third, generally, it is less costly than litigation. During the initial conference, the attorney will discuss the client’s legal options
- It is our belief that attempts at resolution should be tried in the easiest manner possible and that rushing to court should be a last alternative, used only when other efforts have failed or it is clear that the opposing party is not making decisions rationally in his or her own or the children’s best interest
Q. How can I protect myself and my children if there is physical abuse or drug usage in the home?
Unfortunately, today we see far too many cases where there is domestic violence or abuse in a home. This is dangerous for not only the adults but also the children, and if allowed to continue is a course of behavior the children are likely to engage in as they mature. If you or the children are the victims of abuse, seek help immediately, whether by contacting an attorney, social services, your local clergy or shelter.
There are specific laws in place which make it possible to get a restraining order issued against the person causing the abuse. Once the order is issued, it will be served on the aggressor and he or she will be removed from the home. If he or she continues to threaten or harass you, he or she may go to jail for contempt and will be held pending a hearing in court.
Q. How much visitation can I have with my children if we separate?
As in the determination of custody, courts decide the issue of visitation in the same manner, based upon what they perceive is in the best interest of the children. Generally, unless there is evidence that a party is unfit or unable to provide for the proper care and nurturing of his or her children, he or she will be granted unsupervised visitation, however the extent varies often between different judges and different jurisdictions.
In deciding the periods of visitation, the courts will look at the schedules of the parties and the children, in an attempt to allow for periods of visitation when the parents can spend significant quality time with their children. In recent years, the trend has been to grant additional times besides alternating weekends to allow the noncustodial parent the ability to maintain involvement with his or her children.
In the end, each case will be determined based upon the facts present in that case. Feel free to contact our office to schedule an initial consultation during which our child support attorneys can discuss likely outcomes after reviewing the facts of your case.
Q. How much child support will I receive or pay?
North Carolina, like many other states, has adopted a uniform means to calculate child support. In this way, a couple in a similar economic situation will pay the same amount of child support here in Asheville as they would if they lived in Raleigh or Wilmington.
Child support is calculated based upon the gross monthly earnings of each parent (not their spouses), taking into consideration such items as child care expenses, health insurance, and other extraordinary expenses. One item an attorney will ask you to bring is verification of your wages so that a preliminary calculation of support can be made.
Q. Separated from spouse and moving for work … can I take marital property?
My wife and I are currently separated and waiting until we’re able to file for divorce. She has left the home and is living elsewhere. She has also cut all contact with me (telephone, email, etc.) My job has decided to move me to a different state. I don’t want to leave anything in our home and must do something with our marital property.
Am I legally within my rights to pack and move our marital property without my wife’s consent? If she is awarded some of our marital property, whose responsibility is it to return the property to her? We currently live in North Carolina, but I will be moving to Hawaii.
You can take the property. Nothing is illegal in you doing so. I suggest however in order to protect yourself that you inventory the items or at least photograph everything. If you file for divorce and she doesn’t raise any claim for property distribution then her claims to the personal property may be waived. I would not remove any property that is titled solely in her name.