It's not so unusual these days for couples to be together for a long time and have children, but never marry. This isn't just something that celebrities do. People in all parts of the country and from all walks of life choose not to tie the knot for any number of reasons.
However, what happens when unmarried couples with children decide to end their relationship? In many ways, working out child custody, support agreements and parenting plans is no different than it would be if the couple had been married.
There may be complications if paternity wasn't legally established. However, assuming there's no dispute about that, the couple can begin to work out their parenting arrangements.
A key element of this is determining how physical custody of the children will be shared. Assuming that you agree to shared custody, you'll need to work out a schedule that's in the kids' best interests. A parenting schedule should detail how much time children spend with each parent and when they move from one household to another.
Don't forget to include a plan for custody and visitation during the summer and other school breaks as well as holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. The more detailed you are in your parenting plan, the less confusion and conflict you'll have later.
In addition to determining how physical custody of your children is divided, you'll need to determine how legal custody is shared. Legal custody refers to who makes decisions on behalf of the kids in important areas of their life like medical care, religious training and education.
You may elect to share the decision-making in some or all of these areas, grant legal custody to one parent or to divide it, with each parent having decision-making authority in specific areas. Whatever your arrangement, it's essential to have a communication plan in place so that both parents are in the loop on important aspects of their children's lives.
These are the two major types of custody division you'll need to determine. There are many more decisions you'll need to make as you end your relationship as a couple and transition to your new roles focused solely on your children. Your North Carolina family law attorney help you as you work out your parenting arrangements with your co-parent and present your case if you need to take any issues before a judge.