Generally, in North Carolina, joint physical and legal child custody is given to parents who are separating or divorcing, and no preference is automatically given to the children’s mother. Parents can reach an agreement on their own concerning child custody, but if an agreement cannot be reached, a judge will make decisions for them. Many complicated factors are considered, including but not limited to the following:
- What kind of relationship does each parent have with the child or children?
- What is the status of each parent’s emotional and physical health?
- Can the parent provide a sense of stability for the child?
- If the child is old enough and mature enough, their own personal preferences may be considered.
Sole custody is rare in North Carolina, but there are instances where it is granted. Even if sole physical custody is granted, joint legal custody may be awarded separately, requiring both parents to be involved in big decisions about health concerns, education or religious practice. Physical custody refers to who the child lives with (for how long) and legal custody refers to a parent’s decision-making power.
So, under what circumstances can you request sole child custody in North Carolina? Generally, you must make a compelling case that one spouse is unfit to parent, that joint custody would be clearly detrimental to the child, or that it is impractical to maintain joint custody (for example, if one parent moves a significant distance for a new job). Of course, sole custody is considered if factors like abuse, domestic violence or substance abuse can be proven. Keep in mind that even if sole physical custody is granted, it is very rare for all visitation rights to be removed from a parent.