North Carolina child custody laws do not differ very much from other states because like most states, it uses the Uniform Child Custody Act. It adopted this in 1979. It considers the child’s wishes when making a custody decision, allows for grandparents’ rights and permits joint custody.
There are two types of joint custody. Physical custody is based on where the child lives while legal custody deals with who makes decisions about issues such as the child’s education, health care and religion. The most common arrangement is for one parent to have sole physical custody while the other parent has visitation and for the parents to share legal custody. Joint physical custody has fallen out of favor and become less common because it is believed to be more disruptive for children.
In aiming to address the best interests of the child, courts will take several factors into account on top of the child’s preferences. These include whether there has been domestic violence in the family, how safe and stable a home the child will have, the child-parent relationships, where the child currently lives and how well-equipped each parent is to take care of the child. Grandparents may go to court to try to get visitation rights as well.
When parents are getting a divorce, it is important for them to understand the different options for their child and weigh which ones may be best. Parents might want to work out a custody arrangement that works for them and then make an agreement that is legally binding rather than turning the decision over to a judge. While a judge attempts to come to a decision that is in the child’s best interests, the parents know the child better and may make arrangements that ultimately better suit the child.