Try and remember that children take their cues from their parents, so if you and your spouse can remain amicable throughout this process, your children will weather the storm.
The first thing on your mind when going through a divorce may be, “What will happen to my children?” Custody actions in North Carolina are determined by deciding what is in the children’s best interest. (See NC Gen. Stat. Sec 50-13.2). There are no rules for us or a court to follow – every parenting arrangement varies. Deciding on a parenting arrangement is often the most difficult and emotional part of a divorce. Try and remember that children take their cues from their parents, so if you and your spouse can remain amicable throughout this process, your children will weather the storm. There are some excellent materials out there that can better help you and your children navigate this process. Each parenting arrangement is different and must be tailored to suit the specific needs of your newly restructured family. That said, there are some basic terms and pointers that you need to be familiar with.
The first thing you must do is throw out everything your friends and family have told you about their experiences and their personal parenting schedules. Then you have to stop using common, but incorrect, terms. Many parents, when faced with a child custody issue, get caught up in the terms “sole” and “joint” custody. Don’t get attached to these words; doing so will only fuel a fire.
You May Be Wondering...
Q & A
In an amicable divorce, parents work with lawyers and/or mediators to jointly craft a parenting arrangement that works best for their restructured family. Absent domestic violence or substance abuse issues, it’s almost always better for you and your spouse (no matter how much you might not like them at the moment) to decide what is best for your children. When asking a judge to decide, you’re asking a complete stranger to decide on a limited set of facts (because of the rules of evidence we don’t get to tell them everything we would like to) what arrangement is best. With limited time and limited information, it’s impossible for a judge to know what is best for your children. Many times, the judge makes a decision that on its face looks like what it is best for the family when in reality it leads to constant problems and repeated court appearances.
We encourage you to use our collaborative, mediation and coaching services to avoid dragging your children through court.
It’s a common misconception that there’s some magic age where children can decide for themselves where they want to live and with which parent they want to live. There is no such age. Although a court can consider the wishes of a child of suitable age and discretion, the child’s wishes will never be the sole deciding factor. A judge still must be guided by the best interest of the child standard and must consider the totality of the circumstances before making any change to a parenting arrangement.
A parenting coordinator is an impartial third party that works with parents to make transitioning to the restructured family easier and less adversarial. A parenting coordinator can be retained to assist families in an amicable divorce or they can be court appointed to assist a family in a high-conflict divorce. For purposes of court actions, high-conflict is defined as cases where the parents demonstrate an ongoing pattern of any of the following:
- Excessive litigation
- Anger and distrust
- Verbal abuse
- Physical aggression or threats of physical aggression
- Difficulty communicating about the care of the children
- Other issues that the court finds requires the services of a parenting coordinator (See NC Gen. Stat. Sec 50-90)
Regardless of the level of conflict in your case; having an impartial neutral to help guide you and your spouse through the child custody process can help you both remained focused on your primary goal: the happiness and well-being of your children. (Kary Church Watson works as a Coordinator and finds her work with parents to be the most rewarding part of her practice. For an overview of Kary’s services and fees, click here.)
Whether a grandparent has rights to custody or visitation is one of the most complicated areas of family law. The rules and the procedure vary based on the status of the custodial claims between the parents. (See NC Gen. Stat. Sec 50-13.2). We strongly recommend that if you have questions about the rights of grandparents that you schedule a consult with us before moving forward.