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What kinds of custody does North Carolina recognize?

When you're planning on separating or getting divorced, it's time to look into child custody arrangements and parenting plans. To best decide what works for you, you should know the different terminology associated with cases in North Carolina.

What kinds of custody are there?

There are four kinds of custody: physical, joint, sole and legal. Each is slightly different.

Physical custody is a term that means that a child lives with a parent. Joint physical custody is possible, but it's more common for a single parent to have physical custody over a child while the other has a right to visitation. Usually, this is done to prevent the child's school schedule or other activities from being disrupted.

Joint custody is when both parents share custody of a child. With joint custody, sole physical custody is generally awarded to one parent while the other has visitation rights. Both parents have legal rights in these arrangements, usually. However, you could both have physical custody or another alternative arrangement.

Sole custody is when only one parent has any form of custody. Sometimes the other parent has visitation rights, and other times the parent with sole custody is the only guardian.

Legal custody simply means that the parent has a right to make decisions for the child. For example, a parent with legal custody can make decisions on the child's education, religion or medical needs.

Your attorney can help you understand what kind of custody works best for you and what to expect in court. Each type is different, but many parents find that they can seek full legal rights even if they don't have sole or joint custody arrangements.

Source: FindLaw, "North Carolina Child Custody Laws," accessed Feb. 23, 2017

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