Miller Bowles Law has Charlotte child custody attorneys with the experience, skill, and dedication to help with your North Carolina child custody case. Contact us to schedule a consultation.
Any parent, relative, or other person, agency, organization or institution claiming the right to custody of a minor child may institute an action or proceeding for the custody a minor child in North Carolina. This can include parents, grandparents, Department of Social Services, or any other person claiming to have some interest in the custody of a minor child. In cases involving the custody of a minor child, the Court may order payment of reasonable attorney’s fees to an interested party acting in good faith who has insufficient means to defray the expense of the suit.
The laws of North Carolina require the Court to determine custody of a minor child based on the “best interests” of that child. Just as your child is unique, each case is unique. The attorneys at Miller Bowles know the important questions to ask when determining how custody could be decided in your case. We want to learn about your child or children, and help you decide what the best interests of your child or children are. If you and the other parent are not able to agree upon what the best interests of your child are, then ultimately the decision will be left up to the Judge assigned to your case. The Judge will want to know how each parent has been involved in the child’s life prior to the Court action starting, and which parent will be best suited to encourage and foster the best interests of the child in the future.
There are two types of child custody recognized by the Courts in North Carolina. “Physical” custody is just what it sounds like–where the child is physically located each night. Most all physical custody arrangements are some form of joint physical custody. Physical custody is important for purposes of calculating child support as well. Please visit the “Child Support” section of our website to learn more about how physical custody and child support are interrelated. Physical custody will be determined by the Court looking at the best interests of each child, and deciding what physical custody arrangement will best support your child. Everything from school districts to proximity to extended family can be looked at by the Court to determine when and for how long your child will spend at each parent’s residence.
The second type of child custody recognized by the Courts in North Carolina is “legal” custody. Legal custody is the right of parents to make major decisions on behalf of their children. What are these major decisions? Well, think of any major decision you have already made for your child–what pediatrician they see, where they go to school, what rules they must follow, what type of spiritual path they will be exposed to–these are all major decisions that are made by parents with legal custody. Legal custody can either be awarded to one parent solely, to both parents jointly, or to both parents with a neutral 3rd party “tiebreaker”.
Before you go to Court on any child custody case, the law requires the parties to engage in some form of mediation outside of Court. The purpose of mediation is to give the parties an opportunity to try to resolve their child custody case without the need for judicial intervention. It is hard to imagine giving the decision about custody to a stranger, and that is essentially what parties do when their case is brought before the Judge in Court. Our Judges are excellent decision-makers, but in some cases, it is better for the parents to decide on the child custody arrangement. If you reach an agreement on child custody during mediation, a document will be prepared that sets forth the agreement reached. This document will ultimately become a Court order that is legally binding and enforceable by the Court. If you do not reach an agreement on child custody during mediation, your case will be put onto the trial docket and scheduled for trial. Even if your case is scheduled for trial, you and the other parent can still decide to reach an agreement on child custody. Often cases are settled “on the courthouse steps” prior to trial. However, if your case is scheduled for trial, you can rest assured that your attorney at Miller Bowles will be prepared to fight for the child custody to which you are legally entitled in Court.
In some cases, the custody of your child cannot wait for a full, permanent trial to be scheduled. In those cases, you may have the right to seek a temporary parenting arrangement or even emergency child custody. Temporary parenting arrangements are put into place when there is a near-emergency type of situation that has taken place. Some examples of situations that are near-emergency include parental relocation, repeated “snatching” of a child, or drug or alcohol abuse issues of a parent. Emergency child custody can be awarded in rare situations when the physical safety of a child is at immediate risk, or if a child is at risk for being taken out of the State of North Carolina for the purpose of evading jurisdiction. If you believe you may be involved in a situation that requires a temporary parenting arrangement or emergency child custody, the attorneys at Miller Bowles are prepared to talk to you about your case and help you determine the best course of action.
Modification of Child Custody
If you have a child custody order or agreement currently in place, you can ask the Court to modify the child custody arrangement. Even if your order is a “permanent” order, the Court never loses the power to change that Order as long as your child is still a minor. The Court will determine whether a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the child custody order was entered, and whether changing the child custody arrangement will be in the best interests of your child.
Some limited examples of legal grounds recognized by the Court for modifying a child custody order include: change in your work schedule and/or living arrangements, interference with the visitation schedule, and changes in your child’s educational or medical needs. Please note these are just a short, limited list of examples, and your specific case may be one that the Court has never even considered; this does not mean that your child custody situation does not need to be changed.
Each case is unique, and the Court can consider any request for a modification of child custody. We would love the opportunity to talk with you about your child custody situation and help you with your decision moving forward.