Divorce with Kids
While an understandable and common question, deciding custody of children in family court starts well before a divorce may be entered. Indeed, it may be one of the most important factors to consider prior to even separating and formal, legal separation.
In part, that’s because child custody, support, and visitation in NC may be complicated. If the parents can agree to legal custody and/or physical custody, at least in general terms, that can make the process less problematic.
Sometimes that isn’t always possible. When kids are involved, especially when child custody is disputed, litigation can ensue. In fact, some of the most hotly contested legal issues in court involve child custody.
Assumption 1: Mom Always Gets the Kids
“Family law attorneys understand there are a lot of misconceptions about how the legal system really works. Rather than assume, talk to an attorney.”
– Bill Powers, Divorce Lawyer Charlotte NC
Different parents bring different strengths, and weaknesses, to the table. In years past, it may have been assumed that “mom gets the kids.”
That’s outdated, especially when you consider there may not always be a “mom” in the relationship. There may not be a marriage or even a dating relationship. Parenting extends beyond a formal marriage.
Nowadays, Family Court Judges are primarily concerned with the best interests of the child or children.
Under the NC family laws, we call that the “polar star.” Best interests are like the North Star that guided mariners who sailed across oceans.
Courts consider many different factors, understanding co-parenting may very well be what’s best for young, developing minds.
Mom does not always get the kids. A lot depends on what works best for the particular family and the child or children at issue.
Courts consider the mental and physical well-being of the kids, together with accustomed standards of living. Things like education, medical care, and even social relationships matter.Assumption 2: Dad Only Gets Weekend Visits and Some Holidays
Lawyers regularly work out parenting agreements or custody agreements that consider work schedules, school calendars, holidays, and what works best both for the respective parents and children.
“One size does not fit all. No one visitation formula works in every instance for every family. The key is to consider what’s best for the children. A lot depends on the availability of parents to parent.”
– Bill Powers, Custody Attorney
It can be a complicated mix of factors to consider and competing interests. Visitation and custody, especially on holidays, may rotate on an annual basis. That’s true too for summer vacation and school breaks.Assumption 3: When it Comes to Child Custody, it’s all or Nothing
Children, with limited exceptions, often benefit from spending time with both parents. Obviously, instances of domestic violence, assaults, and substance abuse may be relevant considerations in determining sole custody or joint custody.
In working out a custody agreement, there are a lot of different options out there.
One parent may have primary legal custody of the children, but physical custody is shared. One parent may be tasked with the responsibility of educational decisions, and the other parent decides things like medical care or religious preferences.
Frankly, it can be difficult if not impossible put aside hard feelings, anger, and misgivings about your spouse and their parenting abilities (or lack thereof). Parenting decisions may very well be one reason you choose to separate and ultimately divorce.
As family law attorneys, understanding we’re not asking in a judgmental fashion, we encourage clients to consider things like:
- How much time do you really have for the kids?
- Do you work?
- Do you travel?
- What other responsibilities, in addition to parenting, are a part of your daily life?
- Can you be there every minute of every day?
- Do you need breaks or respite periods?
- What do the kids want?
- How much time do the children want to spend with the other parent?
Clearly, whatever is worked out, child custody and visitation may not be what you consider optimal. Divorce has adverse effects, one of which may be substantial impositions on your schedule.
The respective parents would be wise to plan ahead, to consider the natural ebb-and-flows in calendaring, further understanding your children may very much want and need to spend time with their other parent.
It’s not a competition to decide, “Who is the best parent?” If kids want to spend time with the other parent, it’s a good idea not to take that as an insult.
In fact, never put your kids in the middle. It’s OK if they love their other parent, even if you don’t.Assumption 4: The Judge Decides Child Support
In some measure that is true, understanding Family Court Judges may decide who gets the kids.
There are rebuttable presumptions about child support in NC. At the same time, calculating support is largely formulaic.
The North Carolina General Assembly, to ensure consistency throughout the state, has adopted rigorous Child Support Guidelines or Schedules.
The Judge may deviate from the guidelines, either on Motion of a party and even on its own motion, but must have legitimate grounds to do so.
In instances where the combined income of the parents exceeds $30,000 per month, the Guidelines do not determine the supporting parent’s financial responsibilities.
In high-income families, the Judge is required to consider things like:
- The Reasonable Needs of the Children or Child
- Education, Health, and Maintenance of the Child
- Accustomed Standard of Living of the Parties and Child
- Conditions of the Marital Estates and Separate Property
- Earnings of the Respective Parents
- Contributions of the Parties towards Child Care
- Contributions of Homemakers
- And “other facts” deemed relevant by the Court for the case at hand
Indeed, those considerations are actually relevant in determining the best interests of the child or children as a whole.Call Charlotte Family Law Attorney Bill Powers
If you have questions about child custody and support, give us a ring. We’re here to help.
Rather than rely on assumptions, we recommend you consider sound legal advice. Consult with a legal professional.