It’s unlikely. Under North Carolina law, custody decisions are always to be made in the best interest of the child or children. The family courts are required to consider a variety of factors when deciding who should have custody of a child or children, and past and future deployment is not allowed to be one of the only factors upon which the court bases its decision. However, the courts can consider whether past or potential future deployments would have “any significant impact” on the best interest of the children.
The two types of child custody in North Carolina
In North Carolina, child custody is divided into two types: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make consequential decisions for your child, such as decisions about education, healthcare, or religious instruction. Physical custody refers to the time that the children are physically in your custody.
The courts can award “sole” or “joint” custody of either type, although joint is more likely. Joint legal custody means both parents have the right to make decisions for the children and both parents must agree on those decisions before they are made. Joint physical custody means the kids will spend time with each parent.
When we talk about “losing custody,” we generally mean that the other parent gets sole physical and legal custody or primary physical custody. You might still have the right to see your kids, but your time might be supervised, or the other parent could have primary physical custody with you having visitation.
Deployment and joint custody
When determining custody arrangements, the family court considers factors such as:
- Each parent’s living arrangements
- Each parent’s ability to care for the children
- The children’s relationship with each parent
- Whether there was domestic violence or child abuse
- The schools and neighborhoods each parent can offer
- Maintaining the status quo for the children
By law, a parent’s potential future deployment is not allowed to be the sole factor considered by the court. That said, the law also states that “the court may consider any significant impact on the best interest of the child regarding the parent’s past or possible future deployment.” So, while deployment cannot be the only factor in determining child custody, its actual effect on your children’s best interest can be considered in combination with all other factors affecting the best interest of your children.
Ultimately, the possibility of deployment is generally not the reason a parent “loses custody” or is given less physical custody time with their children. It is much more likely that a parent will be in that situation if they have a history of domestic violence or child abuse, or if they are abusing alcohol or drugs.
If you are concerned that your custody rights might not be protected due to your military deployment, you don’t have to worry alone. Hire a compassionate lawyer who will go the extra mile for you.