Best Interest of the Child Standard in North Carolina Child Custody

Written by Jonathan Breeden

February 13, 2017

Like many court systems in the United States, North Carolina’s family court makes decisions about child custody and visitation cases based solely and absolutely on the best interest of the child. While there is no hard and fast definition for it, refers to “best interests” as “deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions, and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.” The courts review many factors that pertain to the case, which helps them make the very best decision for the child.

What Factors Determine Custody and Visitation?

The factors considered are not explicitly listed out in the statutes; rather, the courts are given guiding suggestions and are able to use their own discretion when deciding what circumstances they will or will not examine when determining the best interests of a child. All factors considered will be detailed in a written findings of fact that accompany the custody order.

North Carolina may not have a list of determinants laid out, but there are some examples available concerning what may be deliberated. Among those are:

  • The child’s developmental needs;
  • The health and well-being of the parents;
  • The child’s wishes, depending on their age;
  • The parent’s homes and surrounding environments;
  • The parent’s relationship with the child;
  • Any drug or alcohol abuse by a parent; and
  • Any domestic violence acts committed by a parent.

The basic idea is to determine a custody and visitation situation that will allow a child to continue living in a manner to which they’ve become accustomed, so as to not disrupt or upset their lives too much.

Custody Awarded to the Mother Over the Father

The court considers both parents to be responsible, capable caregivers for their children; no preference will automatically be given to the mother over the father or vice versa. Parents may also file for joint custody, or the court may award joint custody whether the parents filed for it or not. In cases where domestic violence has occurred, the court will rule in such a way that protects both the child and the parent who was the victim of the domestic violence act.

Custody Awarded to Grandparents

Grandparents may petition the court for custody or visitation rights while custody is being determined. However, if the child has been adopted by nonbiological parents, and the biological parents have terminated their parental rights, the court will not grant custody or visitation to biological grandparents.

You would never have an adoptive parent vs a biological parent as you cannot have both and both have rights so this paragraph does not make sense. If you want to say adoptive parents are treated the same as biological parents you can say that but must make it clear they would never be against each other in court as to have adoptive parents your biological parents would not have any legal rights.

Custody Awarded to Deployed Parents

A parent who is an active member of the military can petition for custody or visitation regardless of their deployment status. The court may not use past deployments or possible future deployments as the sole consideration when determining custody. The military member does have to be available for any trials to have custody determined while they are deployed.

Contact a North Carolina Child Custody Lawyer

Custody and visitation hearings can be challenging for some parents. When you’re already dealing with the pain of a relationship ending, or the thought of not being with your children full-time, the stress can get to you and may cause you to lash out in an attempt to hurt your child’s other parent. In those contentious moments, it can be difficult to remember that you’re trying to do what’s best for your child. Luckily, a North Carolina child custody lawyer can help keep things in perspective.

Attorney Jonathan Breeden can use his knowledge of the local courts and his experience with a myriad of child custody cases to guide you through this difficult situation. For help with your custody case, call Breeden Law Offices at (919) 661-4970 today.


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