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A Review of the Child Custody Determination Process

Custody4-200x200The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) is a uniform law drafted by the Uniform Law Commission in 1997. The UCCJEA encompasses a set of guidelines for courts to follow in their determination of child custody. To date, the law has been adopted by 49 states and Washington, DC. The UCCJEA breaks down legal and physical custody, sole and joint custody, grandparent visitation rights as well as factors to assess custodial rights.

Legal and Physical Custody

The law has divided custodial rights into two categories (legal and physical custody). Legal custody is the right and obligation to make decisions about the child’s well-being and upbringing. These include decisions regarding the child’s schooling, medical care and religious activities. Many states normally permit both parents to share legal custody of the child depending on the circumstances of the custody case. Physical custody is the right of a parent to have a child reside with him or her. There are two forms of physical and legal custody: sole or joint custody.

Joint or Sole Custody

There is a common misconception in child custody proceedings surrounding the definition of joint and sole custody. Many misconstrue these terms as a reference to physical custody alone. However, when a parent shares a form of custody, they are deemed to have joint custody for that specific form of custody. When one parent has a form of custody, they have sole custody for that form of custody. It is common for both parents to have joint legal custody while one parent has sole physical custody with visitation rights. Another arrangement permits one parent to have custody over the child during the school year while the other parent has custody over summer and spring breaks as well as certain weekends. This is another form of joint physical custody.

“Best Interests” Factors

With North Carolina’s adoption of the UCCJEA, the state is mandated to adhere to certain standards when determining child custody. A court determining child custody in North Carolina must consider a litany of circumstances surround the child and the many dynamics involved in the family’s life. Here are few of the factors a court will take into consideration:

  • each parent’s wishes regarding custody
  • the child’s age, sex, physical and mental health
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • the child’s involvement in a religious faith
  • each parent’s history of domestic violence (if any)
  • each parent’s work schedule and child-care arrangements, and
  • the child’s preference, if the child has reached age of discretion.

The overarching theme when determining custody is the “best interests” of the child. This best interests concept seeks to ensure and maintain the overall well-being of the child to foster their growth and development.

Charlotte Child Custody Attorneys

It is imperative that you hire an experienced family law attorney if you seek to fight for the custody of your child. The importance of this endeavor is too high to not involve a knowledgeable attorney. The experienced lawyers at Powers Landreth PLLC will advise and provide you with aggressive representation on all your child custody matters. Contact us now for a consultation.

Resources:

law.cornell.edu/wex/legal_custody

uniformlaws.org/shared/docs/child_custody_jurisdiction/uccjea_final_97.pdf

ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/statutes/statutelookup.pl?statute=50-13.2

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