Many prospective clients come to us with the question about “what does it really take to win my custody case in North Carolina?” This raises the interesting question of what is a “win” in custody of a minor child. “Winning” means different things to different parents. For some parents, it is quality visitation. For others, it is primary responsibility for the physical well-being of the child. For some, it is fifty-fifty or bust! The goal for all parents should be to keep the best interests of the child as the polar star—a guiding light. Another valuable goal is to reduce the conflict surrounding the child in this time of change in the family. A premise of this blog is that both parents are good people and good parents. Future blogs will address unfit parents, grandparents and social services issues.
Generally, in North Carolina, custodial rights are divided into two parts: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the parental right to decide what school the child attends, what extracurricular activities the child enrolls in, what doctors and dentists the child uses and similar decision making responsibilities. Joint legal custody is freely given in court in the Piedmont Triad, provided both parents are fit and proper persons for custody. Physical custody is which parent has the physical care of the child on which days and at what times.
Making a safe and warm home for your child is important to your custody case, and is particularly important for a parent who is no longer in the marital home that was the status quo of the child before the divorce. You will want to have your child’s bedroom decorated for the child. Involve the child in the décor when possible and appropriate. Make beautiful pictures of your home to show the custody judge.
In your custody case, it is important that you communicate in a business-like fashion with your ex, the other parent. Remember, you and the other parent are in the business of raising your child together. Your child is a part of both of you, genetically. Keep the documentation of the emails and texts you send to the other parent and those the other parent sends to you. Communicate, communicate, and communicate!!!
Go to medical appointments, dental appoints, orthodontist appointments, and parent-teacher conferences. Keep documentation of this and give it to your attorney. Get to know your child’s teachers, and volunteer at the school when you are able. However, do not smother your child at school. Go to occasional school lunches, BUT don’t go every day. Keep up with your child’s report cards and homework.
Do not post anything on social media about your custody case. During your custody case, discuss with your attorney whether you should post anything to social media at all, even about your children.
Please wait until after your divorce to introduce your child to a new “significant other”. The psychologists tell us this is not a good idea, and quite frankly, your older child may form opinions about why you left the other parent and that it was for this new person. Almost all children want “mom and dad back together”.
Finally, know your babysitters. Do a thorough background check on all sitters, including a criminal background check. Require your babysitter not to post pictures of your child on social media. I’ve seen many a beer can photo posted by a babysitter taint a judge’s opinion of a parent’s judgment in a custody trial in the Piedmont Triad. Your sitter doesn’t need to be a “Beer Bot”.
Keep a custody diary, and stay “tuned” for a blog on how to keep your custody diary.
By Carolyn J. Woodruff,
North Carolina Family Law Specialist
420 West Market Street
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
336 272 9122