Our family law attorney represents clients with child custody and visitation claims in Wake County, North Carolina. Child custody claims often arise in the context of divorcing parents. However, single parents often have child custody and visitation claims as well. Whether you are divorcing with children, are a single parent with child custody issues or are seeking to modify a child custody order, our child custody lawyer will work hard to ensure that your custody and visitation rights are protected.
Child custody and visitation issues are often the most litigated components of the divorce process. Divorcing parents can resolve their child custody and visitation issues through a negotiated separation agreement. Settling child custody in a separation agreement is often the most cost-effective and least stressful means of settling a custody dispute, and we try to arrive at this solution whenever possible. If your child custody and visitation issues are not resolved in a separation agreement, then it may be necessary to file a child custody lawsuit.
Child custody lawsuits can arise in a myriad of ways. One common way for a child custody or visitation suit to arise is when divorcing parents are unable to resolve custody in a separation agreement. Alternatively, single parents often have disputes over child custody and visitation that give rise to a lawsuit. Additionally, some lawsuits are the result of parents seeking modification of a prior child custody order.
Regardless of its cause, if a child custody lawsuit is filed, the law requires the parties to attend custody mediation in an effort to reach a resolution without a trial. Mediation consists of the parties to the suit and a neutral, third-party mediator.
Lawyers are not permitted to participate or to be present during child custody mediation. However, it may be very helpful to see an attorney and receive counsel prior to your custody mediation. A child custody lawyer can prepare you for mediation in the following ways:
- explaining the laws of North Carolina as they relate to child custody and visitation
- identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your case
- formulating negotiation goals for a parenting agreement.
If an agreement (called a “parenting agreement”) can be reached in mediation, then you will have the opportunity to have your attorney review the parenting agreement before signing and binding yourself to the agreement. Once signed and executed by both parties, the parenting agreement is adopted by the Court and is enforceable as a court order.
If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, an impasse will be declared so that the case can be calendared for trial.
Child custody claims which are not resolved by agreement or mediation are decided by a Judge in North Carolina family court. The standard for deciding child custody and visitation issues is “the best interest of the child.” There are no guidelines by which a Judge determines the best interest of the child.
Modifying Child Custody Arrangements
Child custody and visitation resolutions are never really final. Regardless of whether your custody issues are resolved by separation agreement, parenting agreement pursuant to mandatory mediation or a court order following a trial – child custody and visitation determinations are always subject to review and modification by the Court. In order to prevail at trial, the party seeking modification must show a substantial change of circumstance affecting the best interest of the child.