Once parents separate, they need to decide how their children are going to be cared for and where the children are going to live. There are times when the parents can agree to a parenting plan but this is not always the case. Many times, parents are going to need the help of an attorney or the assistance of the Court to come up with a plan that is in the best interest of the children.
Law on Deciding Custody and Visitation
The Court in North Carolina makes custody and visitation determinations based on the best interest of the children. The court may consider the following:
• the parents ability to care for the children
• the parents ability to provide stability for the children
• Overall health of children including any specific medical needs the children may have
• Emotional ties between the parents and children
• Any history of family violence, substance abuse or mental health issues
• The children’s ties to school, home and community
The courts do not automatically give custody to the mother or the father, no matter what the age or sex of your children; the Court will always consider what is in the best interest of the children. The Court will not deny your right to custody or visitation of your child just because you were never married to the other parent. They court will also not deny custody or visitation rights because the parent has some type of physical disability, different lifestyle, religious belief or sexual orientation. Today, many different types of families exist and thrive in non-traditional co-parenting relationships.
It is important to understand that child custody and child support are not contingent upon each other. A parent cannot refuse to let the other parent see the children just because the other parent is not making their required child support payments. A parent also cannot refuse to pay child support to their child just because the other parent is not allowing them to see the children. This is something that is often misunderstood and can be a great source of conflict.
Visitation and Custody Orders are varied, depending on the individual circumstances of each family. A visitation plan includes specific dates and times that the children will be with each parent. The schedules can also include holidays, special occasions and vacations, which helps minimize any conflicts. Generally parents can mutually agree to alter a visitation schedule when necessary.
If you are going through a separation or divorce and you do not have a custody and visitation plan, you should contact an attorney right away. A custody and visitation plan enables both parents and your children to make plans and know what to expect. A good plan can minimize conflict and allow everyone to work together for the best interest of the children.