Custody can be agreed upon by the parties. It is a good idea to make these agreements in writing, such as in a Separation Agreement or a Parenting Agreement. These agreements are usually private and are not filed with the court. If the parties cannot agree on custody, they can try mediation or arbitration. If the parties do not come to an agreement, a judge can decide who will get custody.
The judge will consider many factors before awarding custody. The judge’s decision will be based on what is in the best interest of the child. There is no presumption that mothers should be awarded custody over fathers. However, natural parents are favored over third parties, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors.
What are the different types of custody?
Sole custody is one type of custody. A person with sole custody has the sole decision-making power and typically has primary physical custody of the child.
Joint custody is another type of custody. Parties that have joint custody share in all major decisions regarding the child. The parties typically spend equal time with the child, but this is not always the case.
What is the procedure to have the judge award custody?
One of the parties must first file a Complaint for custody or visitation. The parties are required to attend mandatory court mediation before they see the judge. If an agreement is not reached in mediation, a date will be set for trial. At the trial, the judge will hear evidence from both sides and will decide what arrangement will be in the best interest of the child.
What is Mediation?
In mediation, both parties meet with a neutral third party, called a mediator. The mediator cannot make a decision about custody. The mediator’s job is to help the parties reach an agreement without going to court. Mediation is usually less expensive than going to court. Mediation allows the parties to control the outcome of their case and generally results in more positive feelings going forward because the parties have worked together to agree on a solution. At the end of mediation, the parties can leave with a binding settlement document that both parties must adhere to.
Once custody is decided, can it ever be changed?
Custody can always be changed. The parties are always free to agree to a different arrangement. However, the judge will not change custody unless there is a substantial change in circumstances that affects the child.
Can my child decide who he/she wants to live with?
Typically children cannot make the choice of who they wish to live with. However, the judge will sometimes consider the wishes of older children in making custody determinations.
Child support is determined based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. To calculate child support, the guidelines take into consideration both parents’ gross monthly income, the child’s portion of monthly health insurance premiums, and any work-related childcare expenses. If either parent has other children in the home or for whom he or she pays child support, that is also considered.
Child support typically terminates when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later.
If you do not pay child support, the judge can hold you in contempt of court and can put you in jail. Your driver’s license can be suspended. Your tax refunds can be intercepted and your wages can be garnished.
Yes, child support can be changed if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. It is presumed that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred if the request to change child support is made three or more years after the entry of the current child support order and there is a 15% difference between the amount of child support being paid and the amount that would be required under the new guidelines.
Click on the calculator below to see what type of child support payments you can expect: