Greensboro Family Law: Child Custody

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Types of Child Custody

In NC there are several types of custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is one of the most commonly known types of child custody. If a parent has been granted physical custody of a child by a court or other ruling body, this means that the parent has the right to have the child live with him or her. In essence, they will have physical control over the child.

Generally, joint physical custody will only be awarded when the parents of the child plan on living relatively close to each other. If the parents live too far apart, it will create instability and dysfunction for the child.

Sole physical custody means that a child lives primarily with one parent while the other parent only has limited visitation or custody rights. As an example, a mother could have sole physical custody where the child spends every day living with her and only visits the father for a few hours at a time, perhaps on weekends.

Legal Custody

If a parent has been awarded legal custody of a child, this means that the parent has the legal authority to make decisions about the child’s education, health and upbringing. The parent with legal custody of a child will have the authority to decide which school to send the child to, which religion the child will practice, and what sorts of medical care the child will receive. Many states regularly award joint legal custody after a divorce. This means that parents will have to cooperate and make joint decisions about their child’s upbringing.

If one parent in a joint legal custody arrangement takes decision-making powers away from the other parent, the other parent can go back to court to get a judge to enforce the joint legal custody order. Although the judge will probably not punish the parent that violated the order or send them to jail, it will probably cause a lot of embarrassment as well as introduce more stress into the already strained relationship.

If you feel that the other parent in the joint legal custody arrangement is making it hard or impossible to make decisions simply to spite you, you are free to go back to court to attempt to get sole legal custody of your child.

Sole Custody

It is not unheard of for a judge to award sole legal or physical custody of a child to one parent. Sole physical custody is often awarded in divorce proceedings when it can be shown that one parent is unfit to be a parent, likely because of financial, drug or alcohol problems. In addition, if one parent has taken to living with a new partner, and that new partner is deemed unfit to care for the child, then sole physical custody may be awarded to the parent that is in the better position to care for the child.

However, there has been a recent trend towards allowing joint legal custody even when sole physical custody is awarded to one parent or the other. In addition, even if sole physical custody is awarded, there has a been a push to allowing more lenient visitation rights for the parent that does not live with the child.

If you are involved in a messy divorce, it is ALWAYS best to keep in mind that a child is not a bargaining chip that can be used to hurt your ex. Arguing for sole custody just for the sake of hurting your ex is never wise and will most likely hurt your child in the end.

Joint Custody

If the parents of a child do not live together but share the responsibilities of making decisions about the child or housing the child, they are engaging in joint legal or physical custody of the child. Joint custody can be joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both joint legal and physical custody.

For couples that share joint physical custody, it is pretty common for them to share joint legal custody as well. However, the opposite is not necessarily the case. Parents that share joint legal custody will not always share joint physical custody.

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