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3 questions about child custody determinations in North Carolina

Going through a divorce is a difficult process. Those who have children may have questions about how child custody is determined. Having a basic understanding of the law in your state can help to ease some concerns that center on your child's well-being.

Who gets custody of the children when parents divorce in North Carolina?

When making a child custody determination, North Carolina law calls for application of what is referred to as the best interest of the child standard. This standard is designed to better ensure that the child is in the best possible situation.

Although there is not a presumption of mothers gaining custody of the children over fathers, there is a presumption that natural parents gain custody over third parties. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles or other interested parties.

How is child custody determined in North Carolina?

There are a couple of different ways a custody determination can be developed. The first option involves the parents coming up with an agreement on their own. This agreement is generally reviewed by the court and either approved or not.

If the couple is unable to develop an agreement on their own, there are three different paths that may be taken. In many cases, the couple will be encouraged to try one of the two forms of alternate dispute resolution. There are two option: mediation or arbitration. These processes generally involve a neutral third party that guides the parents through the process of putting together an agreement. The third option involves going to court, which can be a long and contentious process.

What if I don't get custody of my child?

If you do not receive custody of your child, you will likely receive visitation rights. This is the legal right to have time with the child. The amount of time can vary depending on the situation. Various factors including the parents' and children's schedules are taken into consideration when making this determination.

This determination can be made through the same processes noted above: mediation, arbitration or traditional court litigation.

A few final notes

It is important to note that child custody determinations are not permanent. They can be modified. This is particularly true if the situation changes and the current agreement is no longer in the best interest of the child. 

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