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Do Mothers Always Get Child Custody in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Divorce, Family Law |

No. In North Carolina child custody cases, there is a common misconception that mothers automatically get custody of their children. However, that is not true. Both mothers and fathers have equal legal standing when seeking child custody.

That said, it’s not your imagination that mothers get more time with their kids in many cases. This is simply because they are still more likely to be their children’s primary caregivers. Dads who haven’t spent much time interacting with their kids on a day-to-day basis, for example, may not get an equal share of the available parenting time.

In North Carolina, the courts aim to ensure that custody decisions are made based on what will serve the child’s best interests rather than favoring one parent over another due to gender.

Physical vs. Legal Custody in North Carolina

We’ve been talking about physical custody, which is basically the right to have the child with you. It’s important to understand the difference between physical and legal custody:

  • Physical custody refers to the parent’s right to have the child live with them. This can be sole physical custody or joint/shared physical custody.
  • Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion. Most custody arrangements involve joint legal custody

Most parents share both physical and legal custody. Sharing physical custody may or may not be approximately equal. It depends on how the court weighs certain factors.

Factors Considered in NC Child Custody Decisions

North Carolina courts consider a range of factors when determining child custody, with the child’s best interests being the most important consideration. Some key factors include:

  • Each parent’s ability to meet their child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs
  • The quality of the parent-child relationship and interactions
  • The child’s adjustment to their current home, school, and community environment
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or other issues
  • The parents’ willingness to cooperate and foster their child’s relationship with the other parent

The court will consider any factors it feels are relevant when making its decision.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard and Settling by Agreement

Ultimately, North Carolina courts aim to make custody decisions that serve the best interests of the child based on the specific circumstances of each case. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or automatic preference for either parent.

If you are facing a child custody dispute, it is crucial to work with an experienced North Carolina child custody attorney. Your attorney can help present evidence and arguments that demonstrate how your preferred custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Your ex’s attorney will make a counter-argument based on the evidence your ex can gather.

It’s important to know that you have the option to resolve your custody issues out of court. If you and your ex can agree, either through negotiation or custody mediation, you will have much more control over the outcome of your case.

Whatever your situation, try to work with a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile for you and your family.


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