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What is the Definition of a Custodial Parent in North Carolina?

There are two types of child custody for parents in North Carolina, physical custody and legal custody. The term “custodial parent” typically refers to the parent who has physical custody of the child most of the time.

This blog will answer the question, what is the definition of a custodial parent in North Carolina? When you are going through a divorce, you probably have many additional questions. You can talk to North Carolina family law attorneys about your concerns and about handling your case.

Physical Custody in North Carolina

In a situation in which one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent usually has secondary physical custody. This secondary custody might consist of weekend visitation or temporary custody periods. Some custody plans include visits with the non-custodial parent during the week. 

Mid-week visits might only last for a few hours so that the child can sleep in their regular bed during the week. Other schedules might give the non-custodial parent overnight visits with the child during the week.

Summers and holidays usually have a different schedule. Special days, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the birthdays of the children and parents, typically get scheduled separately from the routine schedule.

When parents have joint physical custody, they might follow a schedule that alternates every week or some other plan that works for the parents and the children. Joint physical custody does not have to be exactly 50-50 in parenting time.

Legal Custody in North Carolina

Legal custody refers to decision-making on matters affecting the children. Legal custody is usually only concerned with major decisions, like medical care, schooling, and religious issues. Sometimes, one parent will have primary legal custody on one issue, like medical care, while the other parent might make the decisions about education.

Typically, parents share legal custody, regardless of the physical custody schedule or arrangement. Even when one parent has primary legal custody, they must confer with the other parents on major decision about the children and make a good-faith effort to reach an agreement. 

North Carolina law assumes that each parent will make appropriate decisions about day-to-day matters, like what the child eats for dinner or what clothes they wear, when the child is in the parent’s physical custody. Short of gross negligence or child endangerment, courts do not like to interfere with a person’s right to parent as they see fit.

Factors the Judge Considers When Awarding Custody of the Child

The judge will consider multiple factors when deciding what physical and legal custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. Some of these issues include:

  • The ability of each parent to care for the child
  • The living arrangements of each parent
  • The work schedule of each parent
  • The ability of each parent to safeguard the welfare of the child
  • A history of domestic violence within the marital home
  • The disruption of one arrangement over another to the child’s schooling and activities

These factors can vary in significance from one case to another. Also, with teenage children, the court can give some weight to the wishes of the children. You will want to talk to North Carolina family law attorneys about the custody issues in your case. Contact our office today for help with your case.