New Bern, NC Child Custody Lawyer

Father hugging daughter

At Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, P.A., our North Carolina child custody attorneys are adept at helping clients resolve even complex parenting issues. Our experience has taught us that when parents are going through a divorce, nothing is more important to them, or potentially more contentious, than child custody issues. While some fortunate couples agree on where the children should live, for the majority of parents the thought of living apart from their children is devastating. 

Child Custody Attorneys North Carolina

This is where having one of our talented, empathic attorneys at your side becomes invaluable. From the time you first contact us, you will begin to feel the relief of having strong legal support in a situation in which you may feel overwhelmed or victimized. Because we know that every child custody case in North Carolina is unique, we will listen carefully to your account of the situation and strategize accordingly.

Two Types of Child Custody in North Carolina

There are two kinds of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody involves a parent’s ability to make decisions central to the child’s life, like those concerning:

  • Medical care
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Extracurricular activities and pursuits

In the vast majority of cases, parents can agree to have joint legal custody. Physical custody, which determines where the child lives, is much more likely to be a bone of contention, even though the noncustodial parent will be entitled to visitation rights.

Is Joint Custody The Best Option in NC?

Because the majority of parents are wage earners, joint custody, in which the children reside alternately with each parent, seems to be the wisest choice. Though this sounds fair and reasonable, it is not always a viable option. 

Consider, for example, that unless parenting time is divided in two in terms of years, rather than weeks (an extremely difficult arrangement for most children), the divorced parents have to live in close proximity for joint custody to be feasible.

Other reasons joint custody may not be seriously considered are:

  • Problems with one parent’s work schedule (e.g. working night shifts)
  • Very young children who still require nursing or other maternal care
  • One parent who is considered unfit due to substance abuse, mental instability, etc.

If joint custody is impractical, one parent can have physical custody while the other parent will be entitled to visitation rights during which she or he spends independent time with the child or children. Commonly, visitation, also known as parenting time, consists of one or two evenings a week, every other weekend, some school holidays, and portions of the child’s summer vacation.

How Sole Child Custody Is Determined in New Bern, North Carolina

Assuming that joint custody is not a workable option unless the parents are able to determine physical child custody on their own or through arbitration, the court will decide child custody based on “the best interests of the child.” Judges who are given this consequential task take it seriously and use the following factors to make the choice:

  • Each parent’s living arrangement in terms of privacy issues/sanitation/safety
  • The child’s age/ whether the child is a nursing infant
  • The child’s existing bond with each parent
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Whether either parent is considered unfit 
  • Each parent’s work schedule
  • Estimation of the child’s distress at moving out of the existing home
  • The child’s preference, if expressed (though this is not legally binding) 
  • Each parent’s willingness to help the child maintain a relationship with the other parent

It should be noted that the last factor mentioned is extremely important. The court is unlikely to give sole custody to a parent who seems apt to alienate the child from the other parent.

The experienced attorneys of Greene Wilson Crow & Smith will assist you in the struggle, making sure to bring every bit of pertinent information to bear, whether during mediation negotiations or during a courtroom trial.

What happens if one divorcing spouse is an unfit parent?

The legal definition of an unfit parent is when the parent, through their conduct, fails to provide proper guidance, care, or support. Also, if there are issues of domestic violence, neglect, or substance abuse the offending parent may be deemed unfit. If one spouse is accused of being an unfit parent for any reason, the court will allow the opposing child custody attorneys to try to prove or disprove these serious charges. In such a situation, it is critical to have a powerful child custody attorney standing up for you in North Carolina court. 

No one wants an unfit parent to raise a child. On the other hand, no one wants untrue, malicious charges to prevent a parent from having contact with his or her child. Whichever side of this battle you’re on, our sharp attorneys have your back.

Who Pays Attorney Fees In Child Custody Cases In NC?

In North Carolina, the general rule is that each party is responsible for paying their own attorney’s fees in child custody cases. The court has discretion to order one party to pay some or all of the other party’s fees, but this is not guaranteed.

Some factors a judge may consider in deciding whether to award attorney’s fees include:

  • The relative financial resources of each party
  • Whether a party has acted in bad faith or engaged in unwarranted litigation
  • The outcome of the case and relative success of each side
  • Whether a party has delayed the case unnecessarily
  • Any abusive use of the discovery process

Absent these types of extenuating circumstances, both parties will typically pay their own way for legal fees. However, it is possible for one spouse to request the other contribute, especially if there is a significant disparity in income or assets.

Is North Carolina A 50/50 State?

North Carolina is not considered a “50/50 state” when it comes to child custody. There is no law presuming that 50/50 or equal joint custody is in a child’s best interests. The court has discretion to award custody in the manner it deems best for the child.

That said, judges will often consider 50/50 joint custody as an option if:

  • Both parents agree to it and the schedule is workable
  • The parents live close enough to facilitate sharing custody
  • There are no issues like abuse, neglect, or unfitness with either parent
  • The child is older and has an established relationship with both parents
  • Joint custody appears to be in the child’s overall best interests

So while strictly equal custody is not guaranteed, it is a possibility the court will evaluate. The facts of each individual case will determine whether 50/50 joint custody is appropriate, not a legal presumption mandating equal time.

Contact Our Experienced New Bern, North Carolina Child Custody Attorneys Today

If you are anticipating or already embroiled in a parental struggle for child custody, you need the aggressive child custody attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith. Whether you are terrified that your abusive ex-spouse will have control of your child or you have been falsely accused of being an unfit parent, our child custody attorneys will work energetically to defend your position and protect your child. Contact our office today to get a consultation!

Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, PA help residents of North Carolina with child custody claims including those located in New Bern, Pamlico County, and Craven County.