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Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody in North Carolina

Understandably, child custody is one of the most contested issues in a divorce. The divorce case becomes a battleground for legal and physical custody. In most cases, neither parent wants to voluntarily give up spending as much time as possible with his or her child. Sadly, in some cases, parents use a child as leverage in a divorce to punish the other spouse, to gain favorable property settlement terms, or to obtain more alimony.

Because a child is an innocent party in a divorce action, the court steps in to protect the best interest of the child. The court’s overriding concern is to determine what is in the child’s best interest and to set forth a custody arrangement that protects the child. This may or may not always agree with the parent’s opinions of what is in the best interest of their child.

Physical Custody and Legal Custody in North Carolina

North Carolina custody laws define physical custody and legal custody in separate terms. A parent can be granted sole legal custody and/or physical custody or the parents may be awarded joint legal custody and/or physical custody. The judge must use all relevant factors to decide what is in the best interest of the child when awarding legal and physical custody.

Whenever parents can work together to resolve custody disputes, it is better for the child and for the parents. Parents understand their child better than the court and parents are in a better position to formulate a custody plan that meets their needs and the needs of their child. In some cases, a mediator can help resolve custody disputes through private, confidential negotiations so that parents can work together to form a parenting plan and custody arrangement that benefits all parties instead of allowing the court to dictate custody terms.

  • What is Physical Custody?

In most custody battles, the main fight is over which parent will be the “custodial” parent. In other words, who will the child live with and who will have visitation rights? This refers to physical custody. Generally, physical custody is the term used to describe where the child will reside after the divorce. Regardless of whether the parents share physical custody or one parent is the primary caregiver, a parenting plan should be in place to ensure that both parents remain active in their child’s life.

  • What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody refers to the authority to make decisions that affect the child’s upbringing and life. The parent who has legal custody has the right to make decisions that affect the child’s education and healthcare. This parent also makes decisions regarding the child’s religious upbringing, social interactions, and extra-curricular activities. If a parent has exclusive or sole legal custody, the parent has the sole authority to make these decisions. The court may also grant joint legal custody giving both parents input into the decisions that affect their child.

Jacksonville Custody Attorneys Protect the Best Interest of Your Child

“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”

If you are facing a custody battle, you need an aggressive attorney who understands North Carolina child custody laws on your side to fight for the best interest of your child. The family law attorneys of Welch and Avery have extensive experience handling custody matters in Duplin County, Onslow County and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459  or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our compassionate and knowledgeable child custody lawyers.

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