What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in NC Child Custody Cases?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

September 28, 2020

Like family courts, across the US, North Carolina makes decisions about child custody and visitation cases based on what’s in the best interest of the child.

This generally means what benefits the child more, but when it comes to custody orders, modifications, and visitations agreements between parents, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. If you have questions about what a court in NC will consider in your child’s best interest, it’s best to reach out to an experienced North Carolina family lawyer.

With over 20 years experience and local offices in Raleigh, Garner, Angier, and Smithfield, attorney Jonathan Breeden has helped countless individuals successfully resolve their custody issues.

Call (919) 205-5254 today or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

Best Interest of the Child Standard in North Carolina Child Custody

While there is no hard and fast definition for it, ChildWelfare.gov refers to “best interests” as “what 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. Rather, the courts give guiding suggestions and use their own discretion when deciding what circumstances they will or will not examine when determining the best interests of a child.

Everything that is considered will be in the written findings of fact that accompany the custody order.

North Carolina may not have a formal list, but here are some examples of what’s considered:

  • 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 allows the child to continue living in the 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. Therefore, 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 a way that protects both the child and the parent who was the victim.

Custody Awarded to Deployed Parents

Considering the best interest of a child with a parent or parents in the military can become a little complicated. But 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. When you’re already dealing with a relationship ending, or the thought of not being with your children full-time, the stress can cause you to lash out. But you should try to actively hurt your former spouse or co-parent.

It can be difficult to remember that you’re trying to do what’s best for your child. However, that is what the court is looking for when deciding custody and visitation matters.

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 child custody cases to guide you. For help with your custody case, call Breeden Law Offices at (919) 205-5254 today.


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