Nothing is more important to parents than the health and well-being of their children, and, during a divorce, the question of how the divorce will affect the parties’ children is often the most critical concern. In North Carolina, the legal standard for deciding the issue of how parents share custody of their children is simply to determine what is in the best interest of the children. Under this analysis, there are no standard or default custody arrangements, and there is no presumption that any particular custody arrangement is in the children’s best interest. Custody arrangements vary widely depending upon a number of factors and circumstances, and a particular custody arrangement that suits the best interest of the children of one family may not suit the best interest of the children of another family. The issue of custody is, therefore, decided on a case-by-case basis according only to what is in the children’s best interest.
When deciding the issue of custody, there are two aspects of custody that must be addressed: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is the right to have physical care and control of a child, while legal custody is the right to make major decisions with respect to a child. Physical custody may be granted either to both parents jointly or to one parent solely. In the event parents share joint physical custody of their children, the specific custody schedule may be any custody schedule that suits the best interest of the children. The concept of joint physical custody, therefore, does not necessarily mean that parents will share equal custodial time with their children. Generally, legal custody confers upon a parent the right to make decisions or, in the case of joint legal custody, the right to be involved with making decisions relating to a child’s health, welfare, education, and religious upbringing. Legal custody may also be granted either to both parents jointly or to one parent solely or, alternatively, one parent may be granted sole decision-making authority regarding only one particular issue, such as educational or medical needs.
To learn more about child custody, contact Chapel Hill Family Law by phone at (919) 419-1244 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.