Child Custody: Determining the Best Interests of the Child

Ideally, both parents will be able to craft a parenting plan on their own. Presumably, the parents would be much more acquainted with what is best for their child than a court could be, and then parents could have the decision-making power to make the best possible custody arrangement for their child. But if parents cannot agree on how best to care for their child, then a court will have to step in. How then do courts in North Carolina determine what a child's best interests are?

Depending on a family's situation, a myriad of factors will go into this decision. Of course, if there has been a history of domestic violence, then this will enter into the ruling. A judge will also want to see what is best for the child's physical wellbeing, as well as for maintaining relationships with both parents and extended family. The judge would look at the quality of the child's relationship with each parent, and at how well each parent can care for their child and create a stable home.

A judge could award any combination of physical and legal custody, physical custody referring to where the child would live, and legal custody referring to the ability to make decisions about the child's medical treatment, education, upbringing, etc. In some cases, when one parent lives far away from the other, they may not be able to avail themselves of their visitation rights. In this case, a judge in North Carolina has the authority to set up an e-communication arrangement, allowing the parent to email and Skype, for example, in place of visits, if this is in the child's best interests. The judge would detail a schedule for this communication, as well as determine who is paying for it.

Does either parent have an advantage in child custody? Under North Carolina law, no. A court will not automatically prefer to grant custody to a mother as opposed to a father, or vice versa. And a judge will not assume that a biological parent is a better suited guardian than an adoptive parent would be. Also, grandparents sometimes have custody rights, or they can petition for visitation rights. If a child has been adopted, however, then grandparents may lose these rights to custody.

The fact is, determining the best interests of a child is a complex matter. Especially when the matter has to be brought before a judge, who only has a brief amount of time to get acquainted with your case. It would be invaluable to have an experienced legal advocate on your side, one who is familiar with your unique situation and your child's needs. You also need a Raleigh divorce lawyer who is familiar with local courthouses and officials, one who can help you present a successful case before a judge to protect your child's rights and interests. Learn how such a dedicated legal representative can help you and your family when you contact Hopper Law Office, PLLC today.

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