Before you can take a divorce or custody dispute to court in North Carolina, you will probably be required to go through mediation.
Mediation is an informal but legally binding method of dispute resolution. A neutral third party called a mediator will listen to the details of your dispute. However, the mediator won’t issue a judgment or order. Instead, he or she will help you and your ex communicate effectively and come to a resolution on your own – one you both can live with.
The child custody resolution you arrive at in a mediation can be almost anything you want. It only has to be legal under North Carolina law and in your children’s best interest.
The two issues to decide in child custody cases
- Legal custody: Which parent (or both) should have the right to make important decisions for the child, such as about healthcare, school or religion
- Physical custody: How much time, if any, each parent should have with the children
Many studies have shown that kids do best when they have strong relationships with two loving parents. Therefore, most people can agree that the kids will spend at least some time with each parent. It’s very common for parents to share legal custody equally, which means that each parent has full authority to make decisions, but they must cooperate with the other parent.
What if that won’t work?
This type of arrangement is a good starting point for most people, but it might not be in your case. For example, what if your ex has been violent or abused drugs or alcohol? You will need to consider how to prevent that from affecting the children.
If you sincerely believe your children’s other parent cannot be trusted to cooperate and make good decisions for the children, you can ask for sole legal custody. This will restrict your ex’s authority to make those decisions.
In cases where one parent has been convicted of domestic violence or child abuse, you might ask for their time with the children to be supervised by a third party. You can ask for this whenever you are sincerely concerned for the children’s welfare. The courts are much more likely to approve this than denying the parent any time with the children.
Every situation is different. Whether sole legal custody or supervised visitation is right in your case is impossible to know without a legal consultation. These options are real, however, and could be of use.
Be sure to work with a compassionate lawyer who will go the extra mile for you and your children.