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CHILD CUSTODY & VISITATION

The child custody laws in North Carolina pertain to the care of children who have not yet obtained the age of 18, or suffer from medical or emotional challenges. Much of the fear and uncertainty for parents embroiled in a separation, divorce or other breakup revolves around the welfare and custody of their children. In almost every case, these emotions stem from not only a parent’s desire to do what is best for their children, but also from an equivalent desire to maintain the full benefit of their relationships while dividing family schedules with another parent.

What is legal custody and physical custody? 

The North Carolina laws governing child custody, define legal terms like legal custody, physical custody and visitation. 

  • Legal custody of a child authorizes a parent, or parents, to make major decisions for the benefit of a child that has a lasting impact. These decisions include medical, education and religious decisions. Legal custody can be shared between parents or the authority can be given solely to one parent.
  • Physical custody is the actual schedule of care for the child. Physical custody can be granted primarily to one parent who will have a child the majority of the time, or jointly to both parties. In addition, secondary custody is also a term used and can mean any sharing schedule, less than primary placement, and is often interchangeable with “visitation”. In some cases, visitation can be limited to a few hours for each period, and can be required to be supervised by approved third parties. 

How should custody be resolved? 

In North Carolina, parents involved in divorce proceedings are given many opportunities to find creative solutions through mediation and negotiated settlement before a trial for custody takes place. In North Carolina upon initiation of a lawsuit for custody, parents are required to attend a mediation session prior to having a hearing on custody. At this mediation session, if an agreement is reached a parenting agreement is prepared that memorializes the terms of custody.  

Statistics clearly show creative agreements help separating parents have longer lasting outcomes and a higher rate of success than those imposed by a court ruling. At GHMA | LAW,  we have found that issues surrounding custody of children are the most emotionally sensitive, and the most highly combatted of all the issues in family law. When possible we always recommend that parents cooperate with one another to create a custodial arrangement customized for them and the children.  

What if no agreement can be reached? 

Some cases are so complex that parents are not able to resolve issues surrounding custody and visitation for their children. Significant issues often narrow parents’ abilities to agree on custody matters including the changes that come with the breakup of a relationship: relocation, change in work hours, lifestyle choices that differ from those practiced during a relationship, and significant personalities that appear in one or both spouses’ lives following separation. 

When a trial of a custody dispute is necessary, judges have broad discretion over custody awards. A judge can award legal custody, physical custody or visitation rights, and can set permanence or length of time for his ruling. The best interest of your children from the court’s perspective will be the foundation of any custody ruling. In considering the best interests of the child, fundamental concerns that are factored into a judge’s decisions might include: 

  • significant family circumstances and history, like domestic violence, anger management issues, substance abuse issues and/or mental health,
  • Age and needs of the children, 
  • Schedule of the children and parents, 
  • Ability of the parents to care for the children,
  • The environment of each parent’s household, and
  • Any other factor that the child finds relevant. 

Child Custody Articles

CHILD CUSTODY

Children grow, and their needs change over time. Due to this ever changing environment, child custody agreements or orders can be modified if a change in circumstances has occurred that affects the children. Being able to change the terms of custody allows parents to ensure that the best interests of the children is always at the heart of any custody arrangement. 

Avoiding trial on custody issues through the use of tools like mediation is the most efficient and least costly course of action. When this solution-oriented and efficient approach to resolving family disputes through negotiated settlement is unsuccessful, the family law attorneys at GHMA | LAW are primarily trial lawyers.

As with all the issues involved in a separation and divorce, creative resolutions through mediation provide parents an opportunity to create agreements that may be of greater benefit to their children and the function of the family than statutory guidelines may permit. Patrick McCroskey and Janet Amburgey are both board-certified specialists in family law and have years of experience in child custody matters. Contact them to help protect your parental rights and guide you to finding the right solution for your children at 828-258-3368.  

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CHILD CUSTODY & VISITATION

The child custody laws in North Carolina pertain to the care of children who have not yet obtained the age of 18, or suffer from medical or emotional challenges. Much of the fear and uncertainty for parents embroiled in a separation, divorce or other breakup revolves around the welfare and custody of their children. In almost every case, these emotions stem from not only a parent’s desire to do what is best for their children, but also from an equivalent desire to maintain the full benefit of their relationships while dividing family schedules with another parent.

What is legal custody and physical custody? 

The North Carolina laws governing child custody, define legal terms like legal custody, physical custody and visitation. 

  • Legal custody of a child authorizes a parent, or parents, to make major decisions for the benefit of a child that has a lasting impact. These decisions include medical, education and religious decisions. Legal custody can be shared between parents or the authority can be given solely to one parent.
  • Physical custody is the actual schedule of care for the child. Physical custody can be granted primarily to one parent who will have a child the majority of the time, or jointly to both parties. In addition, secondary custody is also a term used and can mean any sharing schedule, less than primary placement, and is often interchangeable with “visitation”. In some cases, visitation can be limited to a few hours for each period, and can be required to be supervised by approved third parties. 

How should custody be resolved? 

In North Carolina, parents involved in divorce proceedings are given many opportunities to find creative solutions through mediation and negotiated settlement before a trial for custody takes place. In North Carolina upon initiation of a lawsuit for custody, parents are required to attend a mediation session prior to having a hearing on custody. At this mediation session, if an agreement is reached a parenting agreement is prepared that memorializes the terms of custody.  

Statistics clearly show creative agreements help separating parents have longer lasting outcomes and a higher rate of success than those imposed by a court ruling. At GHMA | LAW,  we have found that issues surrounding custody of children are the most emotionally sensitive, and the most highly combatted of all the issues in family law. When possible we always recommend that parents cooperate with one another to create a custodial arrangement customized for them and the children.  

What if no agreement can be reached? 

Some cases are so complex that parents are not able to resolve issues surrounding custody and visitation for their children. Significant issues often narrow parents’ abilities to agree on custody matters including the changes that come with the breakup of a relationship: relocation, change in work hours, lifestyle choices that differ from those practiced during a relationship, and significant personalities that appear in one or both spouses’ lives following separation. 

When a trial of a custody dispute is necessary, judges have broad discretion over custody awards. A judge can award legal custody, physical custody or visitation rights, and can set permanence or length of time for his ruling. The best interest of your children from the court’s perspective will be the foundation of any custody ruling. In considering the best interests of the child, fundamental concerns that are factored into a judge’s decisions might include: 

  • significant family circumstances and history, like domestic violence, anger management issues, substance abuse issues and/or mental health,
  • Age and needs of the children, 
  • Schedule of the children and parents, 
  • Ability of the parents to care for the children,
  • The environment of each parent’s household, and
  • Any other factor that the child finds relevant. 

Children grow, and their needs change over time. Due to this ever changing environment, child custody agreements or orders can be modified if a change in circumstances has occurred that affects the children. Being able to change the terms of custody allows parents to ensure that the best interests of the children is always at the heart of any custody arrangement. 

Avoiding trial on custody issues through the use of tools like mediation is the most efficient and least costly course of action. When this solution-oriented and efficient approach to resolving family disputes through negotiated settlement is unsuccessful, the family law attorneys at GHMA | LAW are primarily trial lawyers.

As with all the issues involved in a separation and divorce, creative resolutions through mediation provide parents an opportunity to create agreements that may be of greater benefit to their children and the function of the family than statutory guidelines may permit. Patrick McCroskey and Janet Amburgey are both board-certified specialists in family law and have years of experience in child custody matters. Contact them to help protect your parental rights and guide you to finding the right solution for your children at 828-258-3368.  

Child Custody Articles

Child Custody Consultation

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Common Questions & Concerns

We will do everything possible to structure your case so that you may obtain the best legal result. Punishing your spouse or winning an all-out, no holds-barred victory, however, is an unrealistic and unattainable goal. Your attorney's job is to represent your best interests, and to achieve the best resolution for you. His job is not to serve as your avenger. He cannot give you retribution for the sins of your spouse. If you enter this process expecting revenge and retribution, you will be sorely disappointed and unhappy with your attorney, yourself, and the outcome of your case, no matter how favorable that outcome may be to you. Before beginning the attorney-client relationship, you should make every effort to put your priorities in order, and realize that there are some things the legal system cannot provide.

Most people share the same fears, questions, and beliefs about divorce. The following are some of the most common of these fears, questions and beliefs.

Click on the titles below to toggle on and off pertinent information.

Emotions

In a domestic dispute, negative emotions such as hostility, anger, and revenge can needlessly delay a resolution and increase the cost. Perspective and objectivity, on the other hand, can promote a conclusion and reduce the cost.

Many factors may be involved in the breakup of your marriage, and you may feel indignation, anger and resentment toward your spouse. You may want to punish your spouse by making the process difficult and time-consuming. This type of thinking usually results in a no-win situation for everyone concerned.

... read more >>>

Reconciliation

Often, a potential client visits an attorney to discuss divorce, although they have not yet made the decision to take the big step. First, they want to know their options. Attorneys typically encourage them to explore alternatives, and often suggest how to protect themselves and meet their needs, short of divorce.

If your attorney raises the issue of reconciliation, he is not questioning or judging your decision. But, it is clarifying and confirming that you know your options, and that you want a divorce.

Your Spouse's Suggestions

The mediator’s role is to move the parties beyond personality clashes and historic grievances. Only then, can the mediator help you improve communication so any future dealings can take place without repeating the difficulties of the past. Mediation is a useful tool because it adds a new dimension to the negotiations. Because the mediator’s purpose is to help guide you to find solutions that you can both agree to, he/she does not have the power to decide your case, or in any other way, act as a judge nor does he/she have a fixed result in mind to urge you toward.

... read more >>>

Your Will

As you begin the divorce process, the first order of business is to review your will. If you do not have one, get one immediately. Succession laws may conflict with your wishes.

You may choose to consult David Hillier, of this law firm, regarding your will, as well as any financial concerns and considerations you may have.

Length of Time

Generally speaking, it is impossible to predict exactly how long the case will take. After the case is under way, and your attorney understands the issues, he will be better able to gauge the duration. How long it will take depends on the following factors:

  • The number and complexity of contested issues;
  • The attitudes of each of the parties, their attorneys, and their inclination to settle;

read more >>>

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which two or more people involved in a dispute come together voluntarily to try to develop a solution to their problem with the help of a neutral third person (or persons), called the mediator. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, the mediator does not take sides or make decisions. The mediator, usually trained in conflict resolution, is there to help the disputants evaluate their goals and options in order to formulate their own solution. To achieve the fairest results possible, you both take an active part in your divorce and turn what could be a battle for control into a search for mutually beneficial solutions.

Does Mediation Work?

Mediation can take place over a series of sessions. But, more often than not, it is scheduled for a continuous amount of time to keep the negotiations going. Sessions are generally held in the privacy of the mediator’s office or an attorney’s office, and begin with all involved signing an agreement that the negotiations will be kept confidential. At the end of a successful mediation, the mediator will prepare a Memorandum or writing expressing the agreements of the parties, at least on the issues which were resolved. Any formal agreement will be drafted by your or your spouse’s lawyer.

What to Expect from Your Mediator

The mediator’s role is to move the parties beyond personality clashes and historic grievances. Only then, can the mediator help you improve communication so any future dealings can take place without repeating the difficulties of the past. Mediation is a useful tool because it adds a new dimension to the negotiations. Because the mediator’s purpose is to help guide you to find solutions that you can both agree to, he/she does not have the power to decide your case, or in any other way, act as a judge nor does he/she have a fixed result in mind to urge you toward.

... read more >>>

What are the Benefits of Mediation?

Mediators can increase the likelihood of a negotiated settlement by bringing the skills, creativity, and influence of trained, impartial third parties to bear on the problem. Perhaps more importantly, frequently mediation can save time and money.

Mediation keeps your options open and reduces issues of conflict. Although most who undertake mediation have a successful conclusion, some do not. If mediation doesn’t work, you can still sue and go to court or engage in arbitration.

... read more >>>

Counseling

Domestic disputes are emotionally charged. Clients are encouraged to seek counseling before and during the process. Counseling can help clients to work through their pain, accept the marriage’s end, learn coping skills, and pick up the pieces of their lives and go forward.

Don’t wait for your spouse to agree to participate. Individual counseling can help. Often, children and parents attend counseling together to alleviate the effects of a divorce or custody dispute on the children, and to help the family heal emotionally.

... read more >>>

Practical Matters

Litigation often spawns more litigation. To determine whether certain issues are worth litigating, you must weigh the price you will pay with your time, emotions, and money, against the anticipated outcome and its benefit to you. Again, your attorney will advise you on these matters.

Dating prior to the final divorce: Don’t, unless your attorney has specifically advised you that it is okay.

... read more >>>

Attorney Camaraderie

Attorneys who specialize in Divorce and Family Law will probably try many cases against each other over the years. They will attend the same professional events and, may even work on committees together. Camaraderie develops naturally over the years. Just because your attorney and your spouse’s attorney exchange pleasantries, share a joke, or have lunch together, does not mean that they are being disloyal to their clients. Your attorney is professionally committed to the best result for you given the facts of your case and the law. Being rude, hostile, or mean to opposing counsel does nothing to further your case and generally harms your case rather than helping.

Is Your Attorney Tough Enough?

All too often, the client has the attitude that a lawyer who is a “fighter” is a lawyer who refuses to cooperate with opposing counsel, makes demands and gets instant results, goes to court at the drop of a hat, and plays Perry Mason in court. This notion is sadly misguided.

The time to fight may be during tough negotiations or in court. But, not cooperating on routine matters accomplishes only greatly increased attorney fees because it requires both attorneys to do everything the hard way. Cooperation by the attorneys, as well as the parties, particularly during the discovery phase, is always in the best interest of the client.

Social Media

Social Media is a new facet of communication today. We understand that everyone participates in social media to some degree. When you are involved in divorce proceedings or any type of litigation for that matter, a good general practice is to avoid discussing any element of your case, or your spouse, in any social media forum. All social media is discoverable, and it never goes away. If you are considering divorce or litigation, be very careful what you say in online forums, including email attached to social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace.

Costs

Just as it is impossible to predict exactly how long your case will take, it is difficult to realistically estimate the total cost of your litigation, even when your attorney knows the issues that will be contested and the strength of the parties’ feelings. If you and/or your spouse have completely lost trust in one another, want complete discovery on all issues, and desire to argue many issues to the bitter end, the process will be long, drawn-out and expensive.   read more >>>

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