Raising children is a tough job, especially today when life is so fast paced. Your kids have many needs and require a lot of attention and care. Education, health, and nutrition are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to caring for your children. You assume both you and their other parent have their best interests at heart, but that may not always be the case.
Sometimes your children may pit you and their other parent against one another in the hopes to gain something they want, and it can get ugly depending upon their ages. Every child does this at some point – it’s just part of growing up that turns into fun stories as an adult. When your children tell you about incidents occurring while with their other parent, whether it’s engaging in dangerous behavior, or they’re being physically abused, you need to determine whether they’re genuinely unsafe and if it’s time to revisit your child custody agreement.
In North Carolina, a custody determination is based on what will promote the best interests and welfare of the child: “The court shall consider all relevant factors including acts of domestic violence between the parties, the safety of the child, and the safety of either party from domestic violence by the other party.” Under the best interest standard, the court looks at factors such as whether the child’s environment is best to encourage full development of physical, mental, emotional, and moral conditions.
If you believe your children are in an unsafe environment while spending time with their other parent, then you need to document everything as best you can to help your attorney begin building a case. Modification is based on a substantial change of circumstances and you could seek sole custody of your children. Here are some ways that you can begin to help safeguard your children:
- Hire a private investigator. Maybe your children’s other parent has an alcohol or substance abuse issue that is affecting your children. Maybe he or she has a temper that is flaring up. A private investigator may be able to obtain evidence in compliance with the law that can help prove that your children are in an unsafe and unhealthy environment.
- Seek medical attention. If you see any evidence of physical abuse, take your child to be seen by his or her physician to identify and treat any injuries. Make sure to ask for a copy of your child’s medical records to bring to your attorney.
- Obtain counseling. If you already have suspicions about abuse or neglect and your child is upset, seems withdrawn, or overly anxious, especially right before returning to the other parent, find a counselor for your child. He or she may disclose events or behavior to a neutral party more easily than to you.
- Police reports. If the abuse or neglect is blatant, or your child has specifically provided information to you or someone else that you believe to be credible, file a police report to document what has occurred. Whether your child was physically abused, was present for illegal activity, or was placed into a dangerous situation, you need to have it documented and investigated.
- Reporting to the Department of Social Services (DSS). Much like reporting concerning behavior to law enforcement, you should also make a report to DSS, which would then be required to investigate the allegations. DSS issues a report once their investigation is complete either finding abuse, finding that not enough evidence existed to make a determination, or deeming the allegation as unfounded. In North Carolina, anyone who suspects abuse is considered to be a mandatory reporter, which means they are required by law to notify DSS if they suspect abuse. Discussing your concerns with doctors, teachers, and other adults who regularly come in contact with your children will put them on notice to watch for any signs of abuse to report to DSS.
At Epperson Law Group, PLLC we understand how important your children are to you and that they deserve to be given the best chance to grow up to lead happy and healthy lives. If you have concerns about the care they receive under their other parent, speak with a compassionate child custody attorney who can explain your legal options. To schedule a consultation in the Charlotte, Boone and Weddington areas, call 704-321-0031 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.