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What does the law say on child custody in North Carolina?

Every state has its own version of child custody laws; however, most states -- including North Carolina -- have enacted the Uniform Child Custody Act. In North Carolina, parents have the legal option of seeking joint custody of their children, grandparents can demand visitation rights, and the child's personal wishes may also be considered when making child custody-related decisions.

In our state, there are two main kinds of child custody that parents may try to seek. They are legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the parent's ability to have a say in vital decisions about his or her child's upbringing -- like decisions about religion, medical treatment and education. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. For example, a child might divide his or her time between both parents' homes, or the child might live solely with one parent while spending time visiting each week with the other parent.

In most cases, child custody arrangements are decided out of court by both parents agreeing to the terms. However, in situations where no decision can be arrived at, disagreements will be settled by a North Carolina family law judge. The court will generally look at the following points of information when making such decisions

-- Either parents' history of domestic violence

-- The safety of the child with either parent

-- The child's current home situation

-- The relationship the child has with both parents

-- The ability of each parent to take care of the child physically, emotionally and economically

-- The stability of the home environment each parent could potentially provide the child.

Because there are a lot of factors that will be reviewed by a family court judge, and the interpretation of the law can be subject to different opinions, North Carolina parents may want to go into their child custody proceedings with an experienced family law attorney on their side. An experienced lawyer will be able to prepare their clients' arguments in order to defend and protect their parental and child custody rights.

Source: FindLaw, "North Carolina Child Custody Laws," accessed July 20, 2016

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