Written by Jonathan Breeden
Fathers often feel like they face an uphill battle when hoping to fight for their custody rights. However, North Carolina’s child custody laws are designed to prioritize the child’s best interests.
This means as an active and involved father who does not put their children at risk, you have the right to joint or primary custody of your children.
One of the top mistakes parents make as they seek custody of their children is setting their sights on “winning.” When pursuing a child custody case, it is essential to remember that you are acting in your child’s best interests above all else.
You never want to be accused of attempting to use your child as leverage in any way. Trying to get revenge against your child’s other parent or reducing any required child support payments will not bode well for you in family court.
Instead of thinking about your custody case as an opportunity to beat your child’s other parent or win a child custody case, reframe your thinking to consider how you can secure a court order that is going to help your child thrive so they can more easily cope with the difficulties that come with being raised in a split household.
When pursuing your child custody rights in North Carolina, it is essential to understand the different types of custody.
First, there is physical custody. Physical custody refers to the amount of parenting time each parent receives. Your parenting time will determine whether you are considered your child’s custodial or non-custodial parent.
Physical custody can be joint or sole. In a joint physical custody agreement, your children will spend close to equal time with both parents. However, sole physical custody means your children reside primarily with one parent while the other generally receives visitation rights.
Legal custody refers to all the major decision-making regarding your children. This can also be joint or sole. If you are in a joint legal custody agreement with your child’s other parent, you will work together to decide how your children are raised, what schools they attend, what religion they practice, what extracurricular activities they participate in, and make major medical decisions together.
If you are in a sole legal custody agreement, the parent with sole legal custody will be responsible for making these decisions. They will have no legal requirement to discuss these decisions with the other parent before making such decisions.
If you hope to win joint physical and legal custody of your children, there are steps you can take to ensure equal parenting time. Such steps could include the following:
As long as there are no red flags that indicate to the court that it is not in your child’s best interests to spend an equal amount of time with their father, it is unlikely that the court will award your child’s mother or other parent more parenting time than you as their father.
As a father, you may be under the impression that you need to prove that you are a good father or that the court will award primary custody to your child’s mother unless you can prove to the court that you are fit. However, this is not the case in the state of North Carolina.
Generally, the court will issue joint legal and physical custody orders unless there are documented instances of child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, or substance abuse by one or both parents.
If you are hoping to win sole custody of your child or children, it is essential to understand that sole custody is actually primary custody. Even if you are granted sole custody of your child, your child’s other parent will likely have visitation rights.
If you are currently in a joint custody agreement and are hoping to win primary custody, you will need to show the court that it is in your child’s best interests to issue this order. For example, you might need to show that there has been a significant change since the court order for joint custody was implemented.
Some conditions may be considered significant enough to warrant such a custody change. If your child’s other parent developed issues with substance abuse, began physically or emotionally abusing your child, neglecting them, or gave you any other reason to believe that your child’s well-being is in jeopardy, the court may be willing to make a change to your custody plan— awarding the father primary custody.
If you are hoping to secure your child custody rights in the state of North Carolina but you are worried about how you will be perceived as a father, it is vital to get an experienced and compassionate North Carolina family law attorney at Breeden Law Office on your side.