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3 North Carolina Third-Party Custody FAQs, Answered

3 North Carolina Third-Party Custody FAQs, Answered

While most child custody matters happen between birth parents, they aren’t the only ones that can file a case for custody in North Carolina. Other individuals can step forward and seek custody, but the process is different compared to a minor child’s natural parents.

When a person other than biological parents seeks custody, that person is considered a “third party.” A third party getting involved can make an already complicated custody case much more complex. Knowing when someone other than the biological parents can get custody of the child, who is eligible, and how they can show it generally aren’t easy tasks. That’s why hiring an experienced law firm before heading to family court can prove essential.

What Matters When Seeking Custody Against a Biological Parent?

Parents have a constitutionally protected right to the care, custody, and control of their child when it comes to third parties. However, there are scenarios where a caretaker or close relative could step in and obtain custody.

There are three grounds that a third party can use to pursue custody:

  • Unfitness of the parents
  • Neglect by the parents
  • Acts inconsistent with the constitutionally protected rights

A Higher Standard for Third-Party Cases

In an initial custody case between two parents, the judge decides the custody arrangement by determining what is in a child’s best interests. For third-party cases, the judge must first determine if the parents are unfit, have neglected the child, or have acted in a manner that is inconsistent with their protected rights. A third party must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, which is higher than the typical civil case standard of greater weight of the evidence.

Unfitness and neglect are closely related. The type of evidence in these cases can involve the following:

  • Their home life is unstable
  • The child is unsafe in their home
  • They have substance abuse problems
  • They are prone to physical or emotional abuse of the child
  • Their inability to care for the child’s physical, emotional, or mental needs

Acts that are inconsistent with a parent’s constitutionally protected rights are different. This occurs when the parent either leaves the child with a third party for a long time with no plan to pick up the child or invites another party into the relationship and creates or encourages a parent-child relationship. These cases can involve same-sex partners, stepparents, friends, or family who have cared for a child over an extended period of time.

Best Interest Standard

Once the third party has proven unfitness, neglect, or inconsistent acts, the judge determines what is in the child’s best interests. This is the same standard used in a case between two natural parents.

RELATED: How Do Courts Decide What’s in a Child’s Best Interest?

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Who Can Seek Custody?

In any court case, the person bringing the claim must have legal standing. While not just anyone can come forward to seek third-party custody, they don’t always have to be immediate family, either. The person seeking custody must show they have a “sufficient relationship” with the child. This relationship generally needs to be established by showing that person and child have a connection in the nature of a parent-child relationship.

The process of seeking third-party custody is the same for grandparents, close relatives, stepparents, adult siblings, and family friends:

  • There’s a strong existing relationship that they can prove
  • They’ve taken care of important parental actions, like doctor’s visits or school involvement
  • The non-parent has lived with or cared for the child for a substantial amount of time

Is Third-Party Custody Permanent?

Custody orders from the courts can come in one of three categories:

  • Emergency: When the child is facing danger, a non-parent can submit a custody petition for immediate action. This can apply when a parent abandons the child or abuse is a risk. This custody order might only be in place for a short period of time until the judge can hear evidence and make a ruling.
  • Temporary: A non-parent may be able to obtain temporary custody pending the discovery period when parties gather evidence for a trial.
  • Permanent: After a full trial, the judge can determine permanent custody when all the evidence is presented. A permanent custody order is in place until the child turns 18 or until another court order modifies the initial order.

RELATED: Denied Child Custody or Visitation? Here’s What to Do

Myers Law Firm Can Help

It usually isn’t easy for a non-parent to get custody, especially when the natural parents are still in the picture. It can take a lot of work to show a non-parent serves the best interests of the child.

Myers Law Firm has over 60 years of combined experience helping clients navigate extremely complicated and delicate legal matters, including third-party custody.

Contact us today by calling (888) 376-2889 or complete this brief online contact form to schedule your free consultation. We can help work you work toward a satisfactory custody resolution in challenging cases like these.

References

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2020). Determining the best interests of the child. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/best_interest.pdf

Howell, C. (2011, January). Third Party Custody and Visitation Actions: 2010 Update to the State of the Law in North Carolina. UNC School of Government Family Law Bulletin. https://www.sog.unc.edu/sites/www.sog.unc.edu/files/reports/flb25.pdf

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.1

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.2

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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What You Need to Know About Supervised Visitation in North Carolina

Figuring out child custody can be difficult, and the results of a court order can stay in place for years to come. This can put pressure on parents to get the terms right. But when one parent doesn’t believe the other should be alone with their child, it can make the process a lot more complicated.

Supervised visitation is possible in North Carolina, but it can come with a heavier burden of proof than custody decisions around primary or secondary custody and shared arrangements. While legal representation might be the best way to handle a request for supervised visitation, understanding what’s involved is an important first step.

Keep reading to learn more.

Supervised Visitation Starts With Sole Custody

The state will sometimes decide which parent gets custody of your child. If a judge thinks it’s in the best interests of the child to only live with one parent, that parent gets sole custody. The other parent (also referred to as the non-custodial parent or visiting parent) may have to have an agreement from the custodial parent for any visitation.

While a parent could get visitation, a court might not think it’s a good idea that it happens without someone overseeing the visit. This can lead to supervised visitation, where a qualified person attends the session.

RELATED: Denied Child Custody or Visitation? Here’s What to Do

There’s a Big Step From Sole Custody to Supervised Visitation

Minor disagreements between parents generally aren’t enough to prove that supervision is necessary, but more serious matters that might harm the child can make it an option. A concerned parent with custody can present the idea, or a court may consider it, in more severe scenarios:

  • Records of domestic violence
  • Drug abuse or alcoholism
  • Previous evidence of abandonment
  • Failure to care for children
  • Untreated mental health issues

Allowing a parent with these issues to care for a child without supervision could cause damage to a child’s life, resulting in symptoms of depression, withdrawal, and aggression, so the court doesn’t take them lightly.

The Decision Can Cover all Children

The court order will likely cover all minor children involved in custody. Since the important factor is the best interests of the child, it’s unusual that a court will approve unsupervised visitation for one child in the family and not another when there are serious circumstances present.

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What Are the Terms of Supervised Visitation?

The timeline for supervised custody arrangements can vary depending on the situation. A judge might put temporary custody in place that remains until a permanent hearing occurs. That permanent hearing could determine if the supervised custody stays in place moving forward.

The family courts will also decide the visitation schedule details:

  • Location of the meeting
  • Frequency and length
  • A supervisor that will be present

The Court Can Set Meeting Locations and Times

While a judge can let the parents decide where the scheduled visit happens and the duration of the visits, that judge could also set specific guidelines for each session.

The agreement can be as lenient as allowing the parent to spend supervised time with the child in the non-custodial parent’s home, or the terms can also be more restrictive in consideration of the safety of the child, meaning they meet in a neutral site or at a visitation center.

A Supervisor Will Manage the Meetings

The supervisor will be an adult, but the details beyond that depend on the circumstances. The custodial parent or family member could be enough to satisfy as the supervisor. In more serious cases, it could be up to a professional to oversee visitation.

A social worker or doctor might be in charge of supervised visits where there are greater concerns. When a professional oversees the meetings, the custody agreement will likely outline who will compensate them for their time.

Existing Custody Orders Might Not Be Permanent

A judge can also outline any steps that could lead to an expiration of the arrangement.

Milestones can mark the progress toward removing supervision, like the parent going a set period of time without issues or completing the steps of an assistance programs, like counseling or sobriety classes.

Parents can also seek a modification. The parent seeking a change in custody will need to take it up with the court by filing a motion. The courts will then look to you to show what new evidence you might have on the matter or if the other parent’s behavior has changed enough to threaten the well-being of your child. Next, a court order will make the decision official and enforceable.

RELATED: How Are Child Custody Laws Different for Unmarried Parents?

Can Parents Get Assistance With Custody?

Supervised custody can be an enormous undertaking to handle alone, but representation by a family law attorney can help. Understanding what can lead to supervision, how to prove they’re present, and finding acceptable terms for supervised visits may all be aspects you’ll need to tackle.

You may need assistance discovering your options and finding the best way to put them into viable terms for visitation. A family law attorney who has dealt with these cases before can greatly benefit you as you make your way through the process.

Myers Law Firm Is Here to Help With Custody Issues

The choices you make in your case could affect you and your family for years to come, so it’s important to have a team that understands the potential impact.

Myers Law Firm has decades of combined experience with difficult family matters, including supervised visitation. They’ve offered guidance and support to clients navigating the search for custody terms that fit their needs and can help you work toward a similar outcome.

Call us at (888) 376-2889 or complete this brief form to schedule a free consultation.

References

  1. O’Sullivan; L. King; K. Levin-Russell; E. Horowitz. (2006, April). Supervised and Unsupervised Parental Access in Domestic Violence Cases: Court Orders and Consequences. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/213712.pdf

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.2 (2017).

North Carolina Judicial Branch. Access and Visitation Program. https://www.nccourts.gov/programs/access-and-visitation-program

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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How Are Child Custody Laws Different for Unmarried Parents?

More than 40% of North Carolina children are born to unmarried parents. Unfortunately, if these parents decide to part ways, child custody can get complicated quickly.

Keep reading to learn how child custody laws are different for unmarried parents and how you can help ensure success in a potential legal battle.

What Are Parental Rights?

As a biological parent in North Carolina, you’re allowed to be a part of your child’s life. This includes seeing them regularly and influencing important decisions on their behalf.

The state recognizes the mother as a parent as soon as a child is born. Unfortunately, the same recognition isn’t always extended to the father. Custody and even visitation might be off the table until paternity rights are clearly established.

Once paternity is established, the custody rights of married and unmarried parents are the same.

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How Can You Show Paternity?

Showing paternity is easiest when both parents agree that the father is biologically related to the child with an affidavit of parentage. When the child is born, both parents sign the document in front of a witness to make the paternity official, establishing paternal rights and allowing the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate.

If the parentage is undetermined, a judge will try to establish paternity, which will involve the father being asked to submit to a DNA test. The court divides the possible genetic percentages as follows:

  • Below 85%: The state generally sees this as evidence that the presumed father isn’t related to the child. While you can present other proof to argue this finding, this low percentage puts the father at an immediate disadvantage.
  • Between 85% and 97%: This range is slightly more concrete and will lead the judge to consider these results alongside other evidence before making a decision.
  • 97% or higher: The courts will likely take this as a solid sign of parentage, and it would take overwhelming contradictory evidence to prove otherwise.

What Happens After Paternity Is Established?

Once you’ve established paternity, both parents have equal parental rights to each other. The law does not favor one parent over the other. This is the same for both married and unmarried couples.

In North Carolina, the courts can assign two types of child custody:

  • Legal: Whoever has legal custody over the children will make their major life decisions. This can include where they go to school, which doctor(s) they visit, and other major decisions. Sharing legal custody means that both parents will be involved in these important decisions.
  • Physical: The children will live with the parent who has primary physical custody. Sole custody means they will stay with one parent the majority of the time and have limited contact with the other parent. Primary/Secondary custody means that the child may live primarily with one parent and the other parent is allowed some degree of visitation rights. Shared physical custody means the children will split their time equally or close to equally between the parents.

To determine how custody is shared among parents, the judge will take into account the best interests of the child. This usually includes a wide range of factors, such as:

  • The parent’s ability to take care of the child’s needs
  • How the parent can help the child grow and mature
  • The child’s relationship to the parent
  • Relationships with others in the house, school, or community
  • Evidence of violence, drugs, or abuse

Children may be allowed to voice their opinion to the court. Older teenagers typically have more of a say in the process, but younger children, usually 10 and up, capable of communicating their feelings may be allowed to do so. In most cases, the judge will take this testimony into consideration as one of many factors when making their decision. Judges generally do not like to hear from children in custody cases, especially the younger ones.

RELATED: Denied Child Custody or Visitation? Here’s What to Do

Can You Change a Custody Order?

Custody orders are subject to change, but they aren’t necessarily easy to change. The parent making the request will need to prove that recent events or changes necessitate an updated custody order.

  • The child’s quality of life has recently changed
  • One parent might want to move to another state with the child
  • One parent could request new rules when the other is regularly breaking their order

Finding Help with Custody

Custody orders are subject to change, but they aren’t necessarily easy to change. The parent making the request will need to prove that recent events or changes necessitate an updated custody order.

  • The child’s quality of life has recently changed
  • One parent might want to move to another state with the child
  • One parent could request new rules when the other is regularly breaking their order

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 8). Percent of Babies Born to Unmarried Mothers by State. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/unmarried/unmarried.htm

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 49-14.

Administrative Office of the Courts. (2017). Affidavit of Parentage. https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/documents/forms/cv604-en.pdf?gO1L0NiHGJkCFV7DchOVHCueJd2qWwie

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Can I Take My Ex to Court for Custody Issues in North Carolina if They Live in a Different State?

These days, families are more complex than ever. When couples separate, it’s not uncommon for ex-spouses to live in different states. This gets complicated, however, when there are children and child custody issues involved. And when separated parents have different ideas about where the kids should live, the relationship and legal issues can get even more difficult.

As much as we’d like to believe that most problems can be worked out through honest communication, there are times when the only way to hold an ex accountable is through legal action. However, when conflicts cross state lines, taking your ex to family court becomes complicated, especially with kids involved. To learn more about taking your ex to court in North Carolina if they live in a different state, keep reading.

When Parents May Need to Take an Out-of-State Ex to Court

It’s not uncommon for parents to want or need to take an out-of-state ex to family court in North Carolina. Some common, real-life reasons include:

  • You want or need to change a custody order
  • You want your children to be closer to family
  • You want your kids to have access to better schools and a higher quality of life
  • The other parent has violated a custody order

There are plenty of reasons that you might need to take an ex to court, so if you don’t see your reason on the list, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! However, your ability to take your ex to court in North Carolina, versus the state they currently live in, depends on several factors.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Taking an Out-of-State Ex to Family Court for Custody

Taking an out-of-state ex to court for custody issues is no small endeavor. Here are five things you should know before you get started:

1. Interstate Issues Can Be Complicated

In 1997, 49 out of the 50 states adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA governs which state has jurisdiction over an initial filing of a child custody case, which state can modify a prior custody ruling, how to enforce a custody order from another state, and how emergency issues are handled. The one remaining state is Massachusetts. If you have an inter-state custody issue involving Massachusetts, you should contact a lawyer right away.

2. You Must File an Initial Custody Case in the Right State

Initial custody filings need to take place in the child’s “home state.” A child’s home state is the one they’ve been living in for at least six consecutive months before the case is filed. If the child recently moved, or the other parent is attempting to move them, you could run into difficulties.

3. You Can’t Relocate to Change a Custody Ruling

The UCCJEA states that if a custody order is issued in one state, that state retains jurisdiction as long as at least one parent remains in that state. The point of this provision of the law is to make it so that a parent cannot go to another state if they didn’t like the ruling in the first state. If neither the parent nor the child remains in the issuing state, then the state where the child has lived the past six months, the “home state,” has jurisdiction.

4. Moving Can’t Violate the Custody Order

Moving your child across state lines can be complicated. If there is a custody order in place, the move can’t make the custody arrangement unworkable. That would subject the moving parent to potential contempt. If this sounds like your situation, hiring an attorney is in the best interests of you and your child.

5. You Can Enforce the Custody Order in a Different State

There are provisions in the UCCJEA that allow for enforcement of a custody order in a state that is different than the issuing state. Under this process, an out-of-state custody order can be “registered” for enforcement. This would allow the new state to hear issues of contempt, but not grant the new state the ability to modify the custody order.

RELATED: How Do Courts Decide What’s in a Child’s Best Interests?

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help With Inter-State Conflict

Custody, divorce, and separation are rarely simple and easy. Navigating the process on your own can often take more time, cost more money, and compound the stress you and your family are already feeling. When you choose to work with an attorney, they can support you by:

  • Ensuring you file in the right court system
  • Supporting you by helping you prepare your claim correctly
  • Guiding you through the logistics of the process
  • Helping you develop a strategy to protect your family, including personal testimony
  • Gathering evidence to support your case
  • Preparing you for questioning from the judge
  • Making sure you understand your rights, options, and what to do next

We know how distressing custody claims can be, especially when parents live in different states. Myers Law Firm’s team has over 50 years of experience supporting clients through family law disputes, including custody issues. To learn more about your options, what to do next, and how our team can help, please reach out to us.

Supporting North Carolina Families for Over 50 Years

Myers Law Firm has a long track record of helping families overcome hurdles, including the toughest custody battles and other family conflicts. We’re ready to meet with you to help you understand your options and what to do next. Get started today by scheduling an initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys by calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or filling out our online contact form.

We look forward to hearing from you!

References

Justia. (2021). Interstate Child Custody. Justia.com. Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/family/child-custody-and-support/child-custody/interstate-child-custody/

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

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Denied Child Custody or Visitation? Here’s What to Do

Losing custody or visitation of your children is one of the most heart-wrenching things that can happen to a parent. While this can be a devastating outcome, there’s still hope. There are several steps you can take to live a healthier life and get your child or children back.

In this blog, we outline the steps parents can take to get back custody, as well as common child custody mistakes to avoid along the way.

Want to Get Back Custody of Your Child? Here’s Where to Start

Under North Carolina law, in order to lose custody or visitation with your children, you must have been found to be unfit as a parent, have neglected the children, or done something else to make the judge find that visitation is not in the child’s best interests. If this has happened, you can take action to make this right.

Although every case is different, there are usually some general things that you need to do: you need to prove to the court that your home is a safe and stable place for the child to live; you may need to prove that you are financially stable, mentally fit, and a capable parent. By providing compelling, accurate evidence that your quality of life and living situation have substantially improved, you’ll be that much closer to being reunited with your children.

If you’re in this position, here are some steps you can take to begin the process.

1. Don’t Panic

If you’ve just lost your kids, you’re probably grieving heavily. This is totally normal and understandable, but you can’t let your grief turn into panic. You have options for turning things around, and the first step is clearing your head so that you can create a plan of action.

2. Evaluate the Problem

In order to successfully regain custody or visitation with children, you must understand the issues that caused you to lose custody in the first place. Why did the court rule the way they did? Were you falsely accused of abuse or neglect? Did you fail a drug test or violate a court order? Once you understand the issue, you can begin resolving it.

3. Work With an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If you’re serious about getting back custody or visitation with your kids, you’re going to need an experienced North Carolina child custody lawyer. A skilled child custody lawyer will:

  • Help you make sense of legal jargon and court orders
  • Detail your custody rights as a parent or guardian
  • Outline the specifics of your case
  • Uncover proven solutions to the problem
  • Correctly follow all the court-mandated steps
  • Fight on your behalf to protect the best interests of the child

4. Meet the Conditions of Your Court Custody Order

When you have a court custody order with instructions on how you are required to improve your lifestyle, you must complete each order to have a chance to get back custody of your children. Taking the necessary steps to make a better life for yourself and your children will help prove to the court that you’re an able and responsible person and parent.

If you need help with any of the following, you should reach out as soon as possible to start making the changes you need to get back custody of your child.

  • Parenting classes
  • Anger management
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Mental health care
  • Any other lifestyle change outlined in the court custody order

5. Be Patient

This may be the hardest one. Changing a custody order takes time. The judge won’t change his or her mind overnight — especially if some of the terms included long-term changes, such as getting clean from drug or alcohol abuse. Be as patient as you can and use this time to prove your commitment to being a good parent. Never miss a visitation, remember every birthday, and be there for your children when they need you.

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Avoid These 3 Child Custody Mistakes

In order to give yourself the best chance of regaining custody of your children, avoid these three critical child custody mistakes.

Don’t Argue the Terms of Your Court Order

Arguing the terms of your court order will not help the situation and only make you appear less stable. The court’s priority is your child’s well-being. Your court order is written to ensure your children are living with and being cared for by a safe and reliable parent or guardian. Instead of arguing or complaining, work hard to complete these court orders.

Don’t Skip a Single Requirement

Even if you think some of the mandates of your court custody order are too severe, you should never skip even a single requirement. Fulfilling these terms with a smile on your face will prove that you’re committed to self-improvement and providing the best home possible for your children. And once you start noticing the positive changes in yourself and in your life, you’ll be that much more motivated to get back custody of your child.

Don’t Provide Any Doubt About Your Parenting Capabilities

Regaining custody or visitation is a grueling and emotional process that will test your character and resolve. But while you have a hard road ahead, you can’t give the courts or the judge in your case any reason to doubt your commitment to your children or your capabilities as a parent.

Surround yourself with a support system of friends, family, and coworkers to put yourself in the right position to get back custody of your children. Stay off of social media, pay your bills on time, avoid drugs and alcohol, and distance yourself from people who have been problematic in the past.

Most importantly, seek out an experienced North Carolina child custody lawyer. The support of a proven child custody attorney will improve your chances of getting back custody of your child and keeping your family intact.

RELATED: What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?

 

Myers Law Firm Is Here to Help With North Carolina Child Custody Issues

At Myers Law Firm, we have decades of experience supporting families like yours through difficult times. If you would like to speak with an attorney about regaining custody of your child or children, please reach out to us today.

To schedule your initial consultation with a Myers Law Firm child custody lawyer, please call 888-376-2889 or fill out this brief form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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How Do Courts Decide What’s in a Child’s Best Interests?

When courts issue a child custody order, they must consider which services and parenting arrangement best serve the child’s unique needs. This isn’t a simple, cut-and-dry process. Because custody decisions can profoundly affect a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, courts weigh a variety of factors and might even call in specially trained experts.

In this blog, the child custody attorneys at Myers Law Firm will outline some of the factors that go into determining what is in the child’s best interests in North Carolina.

What Is the Definition of the “Best Interests of the Child?”

North Carolina’s courts must always focus on the child’s best interests when making child custody decisions. That means that the judge’s top priority should be the minor child’s health, welfare, and safety. This doesn’t just cover their physical wellbeing—it also involves their mental health, emotional needs, and intellectual development.

While there’s no universal definition of “best interests of the child,” there are certain factors that courts consider when deciding what types of actions, services, orders, and decisions will preserve a child’s emotional wellbeing during a divorce. By considering factors that impact a child’s circumstance and a parent or guardian’s ability to care for them, courts, judges, attorneys, and parents aim to reach an agreement that puts the child’s safety and wellbeing first.

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What Do Courts Consider When Deciding a Child’s Best Interests?

When determining a child’s best interests, the court will consider multiple factors. Some of these factors carry more weight than others, but the goal is to reduce stress on the child, avoid needless litigation, and make sure they’re in the best possible home arrangement.

Here are a few of the elements a court may consider:

Reducing Stress and Prioritizing Emotional Bonds

Divorce is never easy. In North Carolina, the priority is making sure any children involved endure the least amount of stress possible. This means staying with the parent or guardian with whom the child has the strongest emotional connection. This is usually the primary caregiver, but not always.

What the Child Wants

Judges in North Carolina don’t have to ask the kids what they’d prefer. However, some judges will ask older children for their opinion on what they believe is in their best interest.

Domestic Violence

North Carolina law requires domestic violence between ex-spouses to be included in the process to ensure children are safe and protected. If you have questions about how instances of domestic violence might impact your child custody case, it’s best to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as you can.

Parental Infidelity and Misconduct

While this factor does not carry as much weight as others in this list, past sexual misconduct is something the courts look at when assessing what will best serve the child. Parents to focus on their children’s best interests and not their personal grievances when making custody decisions. Committing adultery might make someone a bad spouse, but it doesn’t automatically mean they’re a bad parent. If the child is safe, secure, and emotionally connected to the parent that “cheated,” the court will be less likely to remove them from that parent’s care.

Keeping Siblings Together

To protect kids’ emotional bonds, keeping siblings together is a priority for many courts and judges in North Carolina. Some exceptions would allow the children to be split up, including the children being far apart in age or one child has a stronger emotional bond with one parent over the other.

Religious Beliefs

Courts cannot discriminate against one parent over the other based on their religious beliefs. Instead, the priority is making sure children have what they need to be spiritually healthy and cared for.

Neighborhood

The court may take the neighborhood a parent lives into consideration, but only related to preserving the child’s status quo. It’s important not to give a wealthier parent preference over the other. So, a court may consider neighborhood if it offers the community, playmates, school, and emotional bonds the child is used to, rather than simply making the decision based on which parent has the most material resources.

Above all, the court’s focus is on preserving children’s emotional bonds and maintaining the status quo as much as possible.

Above all, the court’s focus is on preserving children’s emotional bonds and maintaining the status quo as much as possible. The weight given to these factors can vary from case to case, so if you have questions about your situation, don’t wait to contact an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your options.

A Guardian Ad Litem Can Help Identify Your Child’s Best Interests

In some child custody cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL). This individual is specially trained to help identify and articulate your child’s best interests. They will get to know you, your child, and the other parent. The GAL may also interview teachers, coaches, and other professionals to understand your child’s needs and priorities. They will then report their findings to the court, suggesting what is in your child’s best interests. Because guardians ad litem are objective professionals, many courts give significant weight to their recommendations.

While guardians ad litem are most often used in contentious custody disputes and cases involving abuse or neglect, they are an option in any child custody case.

RELATED: What Do My North Carolina Child Support Payments Cover?

Facing a Child Custody Case? Get Support From a Family Law Attorney

Understanding your options as a parent facing divorce and a custody battle can be an emotional, confusing experience. At Myers Law Firm, we believe that no one in this position should walk alone. We’re committed to helping parents and families like yours find the best possible solution for their children and new family structure.

With over 40 years of experience supporting families in North Carolina, we understand custody laws and the details that go into crafting successful cases. We support every client with empathy, practical solutions, and child-centered advocacy.

Myers Law Firm: Supporting Families Every Step of the Way

If you need help understanding your child custody options or how to protect your children in a divorce, don’t wait to contact the team at Myers Law Firm. To schedule an initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or use our online contact form.

 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?

When parents separate or divorce, children are forced to adjust in multiple ways. No matter how parents feel about each other, it’s critical that children continue to feel loved and secure, which requires a level of compromise and joint effort between the parents.

Unfortunately, not all parents put their child’s interests first during a divorce. Sometimes, one parent engages in manipulation that undermines and damages the other parent’s relationship with the child. This type of relationship damage is called parental alienation, and it can lead to grief and emotional anguish, not to mention concern for the children’s wellbeing and sense of security.

In this blog article, we’ll explore parental alienation and help you identify it sooner rather than later. We’ll also discuss what to do about parental alienation and provide advice about how to address the problem.

What Is Parental Alienation and Why Does It Happen?

Parental alienation occurs when a parent-child relationship deteriorates and becomes less close than it was due to interference and manipulation from the other parent. The engagement becomes more negative, less frequent, or both, and the parent feels like they’ve lost critical elements of their connection with their child. Parental alienation can range from mild to severe.

Relationships between parents and children will naturally evolve as the child (and the parent) grow and change. Even people who are very close with their parents can probably remember times in their life when the relationship became more distant for a while.

However, parental alienation is different than the natural relationship changes that life brings. Parental alienation happens because one parent engages in behaviors that actively harm the other parent’s relationship with the child. This type of harmful behavior is most common in cases that involve divorce or separation.

Sometimes, the other parent is deliberately working to alienate the child from the other parent out of anger or spite, but that’s not always the case. The parent who’s causing the alienation may not realize what they’re doing on a conscious level, or they may tell themselves they’re only doing what is best for the child.

No matter why parental alienation happens, it can lead to emotional harm and trauma for both children and parents. So, parental alienation always needs to be recognized and addressed as early as possible.

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Parental Alienation: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Most children, especially young children, want to please their parents. When one parent fosters negativity toward the other, the child can feel conflicted and guilty. A child who is starting to experience parental alienation might experience, anxiety, anger, depression, problems at school, eating or sleeping disorders, and other behavioral issues.

The parent who is causing the alienation may hide their behavior or make no secret of it. Either way, watch for signs that parental alienation may be beginning in your family. The other parent might:

  • Deny you access to your child in person or over the phone
  • Withhold important information about your child or their activities
  • Schedule alternatives to tempt your child away from your scheduled time
  • Eavesdrop on your phone calls or monitor your text messages
  • Lie to you or your child about events and conversations
  • Refuse to pass along gifts or money you send to your child
  • Allow or encourage your child to say negative things about you
  • React poorly if your child says positive things about you
  • Interrupt your time with your child with lots of phone calls or text messages
  • Instruct your child to spy on you and report back
  • Use your child as a messenger instead of communicating directly
  • Unnecessarily share details of the divorce or settlement your child
  • Deliberately cause your child to experience hardship (skipped meals, unmet needs) and then blame you
  • Make statements that cause you to worry about your child when nothing is wrong
  • Refuse to be flexible and make reasonable changes to scheduling and visitation
  • Offer your child more than an age-appropriate say in scheduling and timeshare details, often while encouraging or manipulating the child to side with them in disagreements

If you see or suspect any of these alienating behaviors, you need to monitor the situation and determine what is going on. Just because one or two of these occur does not mean parental alienation is occurring. As mentioned above, relationships between parents and children change over time. However, if these actions are occurring on a regular and consistent basis, you should act sooner rather than later for the sake of your child’s wellbeing and your relationship with them.

What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation can be very difficult to prove in court. However, if you can provide evidence and make strong arguments, you may be able to convince the court to intervene, possibly by changing the custody arrangements.

To gather evidence of parental alienation and make a compelling case in court, you should follow these steps.

Keep a Record of Events

Write down the date and circumstance any time you believe you were denied rightful access to your child. You should also record any incidents where your ex lied about you or spoke negatively about you in front of your child. If you end up in court, the records you’ve kept may help establish patterns of alienating behavior and convince a judge to intervene.

Create a Paper Trail

Hold on to emails, texts, and other communications in which you asked to see your child or discussed legal arrangements. Not only does this prove your effort to maintain your relationship with your child, but it could provide valuable proof if your ex lies about these conversations or doesn’t keep to their word.

Explore Counseling

An experienced therapist who has training in family issues should know about parental alienation and understand how to fight it. If you suspect parental alienation or see it starting to happen, talking with a therapist can be a valuable step. Not only will therapy give you and the child tools and vocabulary to address the issue, but it will also show that you’re working to improve the situation.

You may even want to consider asking the other parent to attend counseling sessions with you. These sessions can be joint or occur separately. Either way, it could lead to valuable progress. And making these types of efforts can only help your custody case, no matter how your ex responds. If you make a legitimate attempt to reach out and your ex refuses, a court may look favorably on your efforts in a future hearing.

Act Fast and Be Tenacious

Fighting against parental alienation can feel frustrating and exhausting, especially when the problem has become severe. However, you wouldn’t give up if the threat to your child were related to health or safety, so don’t give up here. Your relationship with your child, as well as their overall wellbeing, are at stake.

Remember also that it’s important to address parental alienation as soon as possible. If your ex succeeds in damaging your relationship with your child, it can create a vicious cycle. Your ex may claim that you’re spending less time with your child because you don’t care, which may drive your child further away. It’s never too late to try and repair the damage done by alienation, but it’s also never too early to

Don’t Fight Bad Behavior With Bad Behavior

If you believe your ex is trying to harm your relationship with your child, the worst thing you can do is to respond in kind. Do not talk badly about your ex in front of your child, and don’t try to keep your child away from the other parent in violation of a custody order or agreement. Remember that when you take the high road, the law is on your side. Family court judges do not take kindly to parents violating court orders or badmouthing each other in front of their children. If your ex is engaging in these behaviors and a judge finds out, your ex will be in trouble. But if you start behaving the same way, all your leverage will be gone.

Talk to an Experienced Family Law Attorney

As mentioned, parental alienation can be difficult to prove in court. However, an experienced attorney should have the resources and training required to identify parental alienation and bring it to light in court. Sometimes, a lawyer can help you address the problem without even going to court. Your attorney can communicate with your ex and let them know you have representation and are dead serious about fighting for your relationship with your child, which may make your ex think twice before continuing to lie and manipulate.

RELATED: 5 Child Custody Myths, Debunked

Myers Law Firm Can Help With Parental Alienation and Child Custody Issues in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we understand parental alienation and other complicated issues that come up during a separation or divorce. We have years of experience guiding clients through family law matters, and we can come up with practical, affordable legal strategies to address whatever needs and challenges you’re facing.

To schedule your initial consultation with an attorney from our team, please call us at 888-376-2889 or use the simple contact form on our website.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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What Do My North Carolina Child Support Payments Cover?

Parents who pay child support in North Carolina often want to know, “What does my child support cover?” And, as a follow-up question, many wonder, “What should I do if I think the other parent isn’t using child support properly and my child’s essential needs aren’t being met?”

In this article, we’ll break down the basics of North Carolina child support and explain what is covered, what isn’t, and what you can do if you believe the other parent is misusing funds from child support.

The Basics of Child Support in North Carolina

When a marriage ends in North Carolina, or when unmarried people who have kids together break up, both parents have an equal responsibility to provide financial support for the child or children.

If you’re the custodial parent — the parent who gets most or all of the parenting time, also known as physical custody — the court will assume you’re paying child support “by default.” The day-to-day childcare expenses you pay while you have physical custody of the child, like food, clothing, housing costs, and other expenses, serve as your share of basic child support.

If you’re the noncustodial parent (which means your child lives with your ex most of the time), you probably don’t pay these day-to-day expenses, or you pay much less of them. So, the law says you need to make up the difference and pay your fair share to meet your child’s needs. To meet your financial support obligations, you’ll be required to make child support payments, usually through check, electronic payments, or wage-withholding.

A court will determine the exact child support obligations and the structure of the child support payments in your case. Usually, the noncustodial parent pays child support until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is later, but not beyond age 20.

Child support is a separate issue from alimony, which is also called spousal support. Child support is paid to support a child, while alimony is financial support paid to a former spouse. Money you pay as alimony won’t affect the amount of child support you owe.

RELATED: When and How Can I Modify Child Support in North Carolina?

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What is Covered by Child Support?

Child support payment amounts are based on the noncustodial parent’s income and parenting time. The payments are intended to cover essential needs such as:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Educational expenses, including school supplies, and fees for extracurricular activities
  • Miscellaneous additional expenses

In general, child support payments should go toward reasonable and essential living expenses that support your child’s standard of living. The theory behind child support is that the child should enjoy the same standard of living as if both parents were living together.

The amount of child support paid should include payments for health insurance for the children and work-related childcare expenses. When the court determines the amount of child support, it will calculate expenses based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines and factor in any payments that either parent is currently making. For example, if the parent who pays child support is paying for health insurance for the child, those health insurance payments will factor into the child support calculations.

To learn more about the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines and find out exactly how courts in our state set child support, read our previous article on the subject, “What You Need to Know About North Carolina Child Support.”

If I’m Paying Child Support, Do I Have to Pay for Other Things, Too?

Generally, the answer is yes. You have to pay for the child’s expenses during the time the child is with you. However, what exactly you have to pay for in addition to child support and expenses when the child is with you will be unique to your case.

If the amount of child support in your case is based on Worksheet A of the Child Support Guidelines, then the child support you pay is supposed to be all that you have to pay the other parent. If your custody arrangement places the child support on Worksheet B of the Guidelines, then both parties are expected to share expenses for the child in a “true sharing” arrangement. This sharing includes items that would go between houses or benefits the child while at both houses. Examples of these types of items include:

  • School lunch payments
  • Haircuts
  • Shoes that go back and forth
  • School expenses
  • Winter coats

Whether you are on Worksheet A or B, you and the other parent may agree between yourselves on payment for things like extracurricular activities or summer camps.

Also, if you resolved your case by agreement with the other parent, you may have included provisions for sharing expenses for the child. Usually, the parent who has to travel for visitation is responsible for the travel expenses. However, sometimes travel expenses may be included in the child support calculation as an extraordinary expense.

What Can I Do if My Ex Is Misusing Child Support?

The parent who pays child support rarely gets any say in how the other parent spends the money. However, if you have concerns that your ex is spending the money on drugs or alcohol, or if you believe they’re neglecting the needs of the child, there may be grounds to modify the custody arrangement and then recalculate your child support.

RELATED: When and How Can I Modify Child Support in North Carolina?

Contact Myers Law Firm for Help with Child Support in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, our family law attorneys are here to support you and fight for your rights during a divorce and any related legal matters, like child custody and child support. If the other parent owes child support and refuses to pay, we can help you hold them accountable without violating any existing court orders.

If you need help with a child support issue in Charlotte or anywhere in Mecklenburg County, schedule your initial consultation by filling out our quick online contact form or calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889).

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

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What’s the Difference Between Separation and Divorce in North Carolina?

The misconception that separation and divorce are the same is all too common. In fact, separation and divorce are two different things, and they serve different purposes.

In this post, we’ll go over the differences between divorce and separation in North Carolina, and we’ll provide insight about how the two events affect you, your relationship, and your family.

Separation Is Part of the North Carolina Divorce Process

Every marriage is different, and so there’s no one right way to address differences, take time away, or end a marriage. While divorce is the way to end the legal bond between two people, separation is the first step that can lead to many possible results, including divorce, indefinite separation, or reconciliation.

Defining Separation

Some states have legal separation, which is a legal filing in which a married couple formalizes a separation without dissolving their marriage. In North Carolina, there’s no official document or any other formal process for a married couple to become “legally separated”. You and your ex are only separated if you’re living apart and at least one of you intends to leave the marriage permanently. If one of you moves out of the marital home with the intent of leaving the marriage, you can mark the date of separation on your calendar, and that’s enough.

North Carolina couples must remain separated continuously for one year before they can file for divorce. If you get back together and resume the marital relationship but then realize it was a mistake, you have to start the one-year clock over again. However, isolated “hook-ups” do not automatically restart the clock, even if you and your ex engaged in sexual intercourse.

Initiating a separation is simple, but it also opens the door for couples to begin dealing with the issues of custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. This is where the real conflict comes into play.

Defining Divorce

Separation in North Carolina requires couples to live separate and apart for one year. However, separation does not affect your marital status. Unless your marriage was not legally valid and you can get an annulment (which is rare in North Carolina), divorce is the only way to permanently dissolve your marriage and go back to being a single person for legal purposes.

Technically, filing for divorce is a simple process. All you need to do is file a lawsuit with the court and go through the process, which takes about 50–60 days after the other party is served with the lawsuit. In the end, you get a judgment of divorce, and your marriage is over.

Issues Related to Separation

Although obtaining the judgment of divorce is simple, all the issues that will come up as a result of the separation can get very complicated. These are the major legal issues that go along with dissolving a marriage: property division (equitable distribution), child custody, child support, and spousal support (alimony). The legal process of resolving these divorce-related claims is where all the conflict actually happens. In contentious cases, these issues may not be finalized until after the divorce is final.

Remember this, because it’s important: You do not have to be separated for one year in order to resolve claims for child custody, child support, spousal support, or property division. You can resolve them at any time during the one-year separation period, and you can even use a separation agreement to resolve them before you actually separate (so long as you separate within 30 days of creating the agreement). We’ll talk more about separation agreements in the following section.

To learn more about the process of filing for and finalizing an absolute divorce in North Carolina, read our blog article about this subject.

RELATED: How to Obtain an Absolute Divorce in Mecklenburg County

What is a Separation Agreement in North Carolina?

A separation agreement is a legal contract between you and your spouse that resolves the legal issues we discussed earlier (child custody, child support, property division, spousal support). There’s no law in North Carolina that requires you to get a separation agreement, and a court will not issue one for you. Only you and your spouse can create the agreement, and both of you need to be on board.

If you and your spouse can agree on the terms, your separation agreement can resolve any or all of the major legal issues surrounding your divorce. Your agreement won’t be valid unless both parties sign the document in front of a notary, who will notarize the signatures.

You can also put your agreement into a document called a consent order. This is an agreement that is signed by you and your ex and then by a judge. There are different reasons for doing a separation agreement versus a consent order, and we’ll talk about these differences in a future blog article.

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Do I Need a Divorce Attorney If I’m Separated?

If you’re separated or planning to leave the marriage, it’s never too early to start getting legal advice from an experienced family law attorney. Divorce can be a complicated, confusing, and stressful process, especially if you try to go through it without a lawyer.

Not only can a divorce lawyer take all the paperwork and legal preparation off your plate and make sure your rights are protected, but they will also attend to important details you may miss. As an example, some couples forget about various insurance accounts or retirement funds, which often name beneficiaries. If these accounts don’t get included in property division, it can be a mess to figure out what to do with them after a divorce finalizes.

Certain situations also demand the help of an attorney for the health and safety of the family. If you have a partner who is abusive or unstable, a lawyer can get the authorities involved and get court orders that protect you and your children.

No matter what your situation looks like, hiring a lawyer will most likely save you money in the long run unless you have a very simple, uncontested divorce. Make sure to choose an attorney who has experience handling divorce cases, and feel free to meet with multiple lawyers and search for someone who gives you confidence and makes you feel at ease. Your divorce may be a long process, and having the right advocate by your side can make all the difference.

Contact Myers Law Firm If You Need Help with a Divorce or Family Law Matter in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we understand that the end of a marriage is never an easy time for either spouse, so we approach every case with compassion and understanding to search for solutions. While we excel at respectful negotiation and will work to find common ground with the other side, we are ready to stand up in court and fight for your rights with an aggressive approach if that’s what it takes.

The attorneys at Myers Law Firm have experience handling all of the major family law issues that surround the end of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, and property division. We’re here if you need help. To get in touch with us, call our offices at 888-376-2889 or fill out our online contact form today.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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5 Reasons a Judge Will Change a Child Custody Order

Child custody is not always set in stone. When parents separate or divorce, you may get an initial child custody order that outlines the custody arrangement. However, if circumstances change, the court can modify the order at any point until the child turns 18.

All it takes is for one parent to request modification with the court and for the judge to agree. The parent who wants to modify will typically make their request with the help of their family law attorney.

The court can modify the child custody order if a judge finds two facts are true:

  1. there has been a substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the child; and
  2. that modification is in the best interest of the child.

If the judge makes these findings, they can issue the modification.

In this article, we’ll talk about five of the most common reasons a judge in North Carolina will change a custody order.

1. Physical Relocation

The noncustodial parent can reach out to the court to modify custody if the custodial parent moves. Moving isn’t automatically considered a substantial reason to change child custody. So, it’s not guaranteed that this type of petition will succeed, but the court should factor relocation into the decision.

Usually, the court will consider a move as a valid reason to modify the child custody arrangement when one of the following is true:

  • The move would place a major burden on the noncustodial parent and make it difficult for the current custody schedule to keep working.
  • The relocation would have a significant negative or positive effect on the child’s life in some other way.

As part of a custody agreement or order, the parents or the court can limit the custodial parent’s ability to relocate with the child. For example, an agreement might say that the custodial parent has to provide notice a set amount of time before moving, or it could forbid the custodial parent from moving out of state.

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2. One Parent Refuses to Follow the Custody Terms

When you and the other parent initially went to court, you ended up with a custody order, either through agreement or the judge’s decision. Both of you are supposed to follow this order.

Now, the other parent isn’t holding to it. Perhaps they’re not returning your child to your home on time every week, or they’re refusing to tell you when they take your child on road trips out of town.

If this is the case, you can file a petition to modify the child custody order. You’ll have to provide proper notice to the other parent and present evidence in court that demonstrates the violations are a substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the child. Besides filing for a custody modification, you can also ask that the other parent be held in contempt of court.

Since you’ll need to present evidence in court, it’s always best to work with an experienced family law attorney to modify child custody based on violations of the existing agreement or order.

3. The Child’s Needs Have Changed

What works for a baby may not work for a toddler or a high school student. A child may need different environments in order to thrive at various stages in their life, making one home more suitable than another. If you can demonstrate to the court that the child’s needs have changed, you may have grounds for a custody modification.

If a child develops a mental, emotional, or physical disorder, and one parent is better suited to care for the child, that could also provide a reason for a judge to change custody. The parent who wants a modification will have to file the motion to modify and prove the changes are substantial and affect the child, and the judge will determine how to proceed.

RELATED: Common North Carolina Child Support Issues and How to Resolve Them

4. A Parent’s Situation Has Changed

Courts recognize that parents’ circumstances change over time, which is why child custody orders aren’t written in stone. However, if you want to request a custody modification based on a parent’s change in circumstances, you’ll need to prove that the change is substantial and will affect the child’s life and well-being in some notable way.

Negative changes in circumstance can justify a custody modification, but positive changes can, too. For example, if the noncustodial parent had an issue with substance abuse but now can show that they’ve been two years sober and are holding a steady job, that parent may be able to get a modification that will allow them to spend more time with their child.

5. The Child Is in Danger

Since the child’s best interests are always the most important consideration, endangerment is one of the most compelling reasons a judge will change custody. If one of the parents is engaging in behaviors that could endanger the child, the court could modify the order and remove or substantially limit that parent’s rights to physical custody.

Behaviors that could justify a child custody modification due to endangerment may include:

  • Physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse (including verbal abuse)
  • Placing the child in circumstances, either through action or failure to act, that put them in danger of abuse by others
  • Drug and alcohol abuse that places the child at risk of harm or creates a negative influence
  • Serious mental health concerns (psychotic breaks, hospitalizations, unstable or erratic behavior)

In the meantime, if your child is in urgent danger, you should call the police. Then, you can work with your attorney and file a motion to modify your custody agreement and protect your child.

Contact Myers Law Firm if You Need Help With Child Custody in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we know how important family is. That’s why we fight to protect families just like yours. If you’re fighting for custody of a child and you need help, contact us today. We can meet with you to answer your questions, help you understand your options, and create a plan for what comes next.

To schedule your initial consultation today, please call 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or complete our quick online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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Common North Carolina Child Support Issues and How to Resolve Them

Navigating child support issues with your ex is rarely easy. And even when separated parents prioritize their children and minimize unnecessary conflict, child support cases can still get contentious. Common sticking points include insufficient payments, confusion around what to do when the non-custodial parent’s situation changes, or what happens if the other parent refuses to pay.

In this blog, we’ll outline a few of the trickiest child support issues and offer tips for how to resolve them.

What if My Ex Is Refusing to Pay Child Support or Keeps Falling Behind?

Financial problems often create conflict between parents, and when you put those issues in the context of a divorce with children involved, things can get downright messy. Knowing how to handle issues when they arise is one way to protect yourself, your ex, and your children.

Here are some of the most common challenges we’ve handled in North Carolina child support cases.

The Non-Custodial Parent Refuses to Pay Until They Can See the Kids

Custody (parenting time) and child support payments are different aspects of parenting after a divorce; parents can’t use one aspect as a bargaining chip for another. The non-custodial parent shouldn’t withhold financial support to strong-arm the other parent into letting them spend time with the kids. Likewise, the custodial parent should never withhold the children until the other parent pays child support.

If your ex is threatening to withhold payments because they’re unhappy with the custody or parenting time arrangement, contact your attorney. They can help you understand your options in this uncomfortable situation and step in when you can’t resolve the matter with your ex. The most common solution involves filing a motion for contempt, but other options are available, such as obtaining a judgment or license revocation.

The Non-Custodial Parent Isn’t Paying the Full Child Support Amount

You may need to change your child support agreement for any number of reasons. If the paying parent’s situation has changed and they can’t pay as much as they normally would for child support, they can attempt to modify their child support agreement.

However, this process is complex and requires more than just a verbal agreement. Whether there needs to be an increase or decrease in payments for whatever reason, you and your ex must go through the courts to legally modify the agreement. Otherwise, you could get in trouble later if one parent claims you violated the written order, and saying you had a verbal agreement with the other parent probably won’t help you.

An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process of submitting a modification for your child support order and getting a judge to approve the modification.

The Non-Custodial Parent Falls Behind on Payments or Won’t Pay at All

Many separated parents choose to have child support payments taken directly from their paychecks, like taxes. Automatic withdrawal, known as wage-withholding, is a great option for diligent parents who want to avoid partial or late child support payments.

If the other parent doesn’t have automatic withdrawal set up and they fall behind or say they won’t pay, you can file a motion with the court to require wage-withholding. However, you may be able to resolve the conflict without going to court, especially if you work with an experienced, empathetic divorce attorney. Your attorney should be able to communicate with your ex and make them understand what will happen if they continue to violate the court’s child support order.

RELATED: If My Ex Owes Child Support, Can I Stop Them From Seeing Our Kids?

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A Family Law Attorney Can Help Resolve Child Support Issues

When your ex fights your reasonable request for child support or violates a court order, it can leave you frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed. And when the solution is complex, like filing for a child support order or modification with the courts, it can be very difficult to resolve the issue on your own.

If you find yourself in one of these tough situations, you need an experienced family law attorney on your side who can guide you through the process and help make sure your children have the financial support they need to survive. When you work with an experienced and empathetic attorney, they can also provide emotional support, organizational assistance, and in-depth knowledge of North Carolina law and court procedures.

Myers Law Firm: Helping Parents in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Collect Child Support

At Myers Law Firm, our family law attorneys are here to support you and fight for your rights during the challenges of a divorce and the accompanying legal matters like child custody and child support. If the other parent owes child support and refuses to pay, we can help you hold them accountable without violating any existing court orders.

For more information on how our family law attorneys can help you, schedule your initial consultation by filling out our convenient online contact form or calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889).

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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How to Co-Parent: 6 Tips for Success

Co-parenting after a divorce is rarely easy. Your entire outlook on parenting and routine must change, but that doesn’t mean you need to make your child’s well-being any less of a priority.

At Myers Law Firm, we have over 50 years of combined experience helping divorced and separated parents reach co-parenting arrangements and custody agreements that meet their family’s needs. In this blog article, we’ll share six tips you can use to create a successful co-parenting arrangement.

1. Prioritize the Child’s Well-Being

The number one goal of any successful co-parenting plan is to make sure your child or children feel supported and loved by both parents. Sometimes, this means deviating from the agreed-upon schedule and being flexible.

When the opportunity arises for your children to spend time with the other parent outside of their court-ordered schedule — at a concert or athletic event, for example, or when there are other spontaneous opportunities they would enjoy — don’t dismiss these opportunities just because they aren’t part of a pre-arranged schedule. Consider what your child wants and what would make them happiest.

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2. Show Up for The Kids

Successful co-parenting is about putting aside differences to show up, support your children, and solve challenges together. “Showing up” can mean attending meaningful events and life moments even though your ex will be there. You may not want to spend time with your ex, but your children probably understand this. When you make the effort anyway and don’t cause a scene with the other parent, it shows your children they are your first priority, and it will make them feel supported as they navigate life after the split.

3. Communicate With Your Ex

If you and your ex can’t communicate in a cordial and constructive way, you’ll struggle to make co-parenting work. Communication means talking with each other openly about issues and challenges involving your child, not venting whatever you’re feeling about the other parent. If you still have negative feelings or unresolved emotional issues with your ex, don’t air those grievances during co-parenting conversations. Work those issues out with friends, family, or a qualified therapist, and make co-parenting conversations about your children and what’s best for them.

Also note that when we say successful co-parents talk with each other, we mean directly: Kids should never act as the go-between between their parents. Let your children be children, and save your questions, concerns, and disagreements for private conversations between you and your ex. If your ex refuses to communicate or act reasonably, you may need to get an attorney involved.

4. Use Co-Parenting Tools

There are more apps and digital tools available than ever for separated and divorced parents raising children. Innovative digital tools like budget trackers, scheduling assistants, and conflict resolution apps can facilitate compromise, prevent confusion, and help both parents stay organized. With these digital tools keeping everyone on the same page, you and your ex can focus on being the best parents you can.

RELATED: Struggling With Co-Parenting? Get Help From These 8 Apps

5. Celebrate Milestones and Important Moments — Together

It’s not easy for children to adjust to having only one parent present for special moments. When something significant happens in your child’s life and the other parent isn’t a party to it, consider sharing the news with the other parent. Including them in the event or moment, even if it’s just via text or video call, keeps the focus on your children and makes these moments that much more memorable for the children.

6. Never Put Your Children in the Middle of a Dispute

If your divorce or separation involved pain, hurt feelings, or bad behavior, no one expects you to magically forget about all that. And if your ex is being unreasonable at any point during co-parenting, it’s okay to be angry at them.

However, co-parenting is most successful when you can insulate your children from conflicts between you and your ex, whether it’s a new issue or part of the problem that contributed to the split in the first place. You should never disparage or degrade your ex in front of your children, and you shouldn’t make your kids feel like they need to choose sides.

If your ex is refusing to co-parent reasonably or if they’re putting your kids at risk, you don’t have to put up with this behavior. You can get in touch with an experienced family law attorney who will protect your rights and help you resolve any aspects of co-parenting that aren’t serving your children’s best interests.

Contact Myers Law Firm for Help With Divorce and Related Legal Issues in Charlotte, North Carolina

We understand how challenging it can be to create a new normal as a separated parent. When co-parenting gets tough, the dedicated and compassionate team at Myers Law Firm is here to help. We can support you through challenging times and help you resolve legal issues like child custody and child support.

To schedule your initial consultation with an experienced family law attorney from the Myers Law Firm team, call us at (888) 376-2889 or fill out our easy and convenient online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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What’s the Difference Between Joint Custody and Shared Custody?

In divorces where children are involved, the custody arrangement can be one of the hardest matters to settle. If both parents want to remain involved in a child’s life and the court has no important reasons to keep either parent away, then you can expect that your custody arrangement will involve joint physical and legal custody.

But what about shared custody? Many people use the terms joint custody and shared custody without knowing exactly what these terms mean. If you’re facing a custody decision in a North Carolina divorce and you want to make the best possible arrangement for your child, then you’ll need to understand the differences.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

In any discussion about child custody, it’s important to remember that there are actually two different types of custody.

Physical custody involves looking after a child. This type of custody deals with the child’s physical location and who they are with at the given moment. A party who has physical custody can make minor day-to-day decisions for the child.

Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make long-term decisions for a child’s well-being. North Carolina statutes don’t define the term “legal custody,” so a judge or the parties involved in an arrangement can define what it means and what may be in a child’s best interests. The rights covered by legal custody can include the right to make important decisions about education, health care, and activities outside school, like sports and clubs.

RELATED: 7 Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Child Custody Case

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What Is Joint Custody?

When people say “joint custody,” they usually mean joint legal custody. A joint legal custody arrangement is based around shared parenting, which means both parents share equal decision-making responsibilities. One parent can’t make major changes or important life decisions for the child unless the other parent says it’s okay. Both parents must agree on important matters like education, health care, and activities outside school.

To make a joint custody arrangement work, both you and your ex will have to be ready to compromise and cooperate. Each parent in a joint custody arrangement should be able to trust that the other parent won’t make one-sided decisions.

Judges Usually Won’t Grant Joint Custody in Contested Hearings

Judges must consider the best interests of the child when creating a child custody order. For most judges, this means (among other things) not bringing the child back to court any more than is necessary.

In a contested custody case, the judge already knows the parents can’t work together and compromise on a child custody agreement — if they could, they wouldn’t be going through a trial and asking the judge to decide. So, to reduce the need for further hearings, the judge in a contested hearing may order that one parent has final decision-making authority on all decisions. Or, the judge can give authority to one parent for some issues and the other parent for other issues.

What About Shared Custody?

When people say “shared custody” they’re usually talking about joint physical custody. In a joint physical custody arrangement, both parents get to spend time with the child. The alternative is sole physical custody, which involves the child being with one parent almost all the time while the other parent gets very little time. When one parent has sole custody, the other parent may have to make child support payments.

Most people think of joint physical custody as equal time or something close to equal, but it doesn’t have to be. In a lot of cases, the child will mostly live with one parent (the “custodial parent”) while the other parent has visitation rights. However, it’s becoming more common for courts to create true “shared” custody arrangements where the child lives with both parents equally.

In a joint physical custody arrangement, parents must work out the custody schedule based on their housing and jobs as well as the child’s needs and the location of the child’s school. Because joint physical custody requires a lot of travel and communication from both parents, this type of custody works best when both parents live and work in the same area.

Legal custody and physical custody are separate issues, so both parents can share physical custody while only one parent has legal custody. If one parent has sole legal custody of the child, then that parent will make final decisions about education, healthcare, and activities outside of school.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About North Carolina Child Support

Myers Law Firm: Experienced Family Law Attorneys for Clients in Mecklenburg County

If you’re fighting for custody in the Charlotte area or just trying to understand your rights and options so you can do what’s best for your child, contact Myers Law Firm for help today. An experienced family law attorney from our team will meet with you to answer your questions, help you understand your options, and create a plan for what comes next.

To schedule your first consultation today, please call 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or fill out our quick online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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What You Need to Know

  • North Carolina courts try to keep children with their parents whenever possible.
  • However, grandparents or stepparents may be able to gain custody if the parents aren’t willing or able to care for the child.
  • Hopeful guardians should hire an experienced, empathetic family law attorney for guidance through the custody process.

When a child needs a safe and nurturing place to live, deciding where that place is can be a challenging, emotional process. If the parent or parents aren’t the best people to care for the child, another person might step up and offer to take the child. Usually, this person is a stepparent or grandparent, but they could also be an aunt, uncle, older sibling, or another person who has a substantial relationship with the child.

However, the process of gaining child custody as a grandparent or stepparent is different than for a parent, and it’s often more complicated and challenging. Keep reading to learn more.

Grandparents and Stepparents Can Receive Custody, but They Must Take Extra Steps

The United States Supreme Court has determined that parents have a constitutionally protected right to the control of their children. North Carolina courts follow the Supreme Court’s broad direction, so whenever possible, judges try to keep parents and children together. However, there are three possible situations where a nonparent, third-party guardian (like a stepparent or grandparent) can receive custody because the parents have lost their protected status. Those situations are:

  • The biological parents have taken actions which are inconsistent with their protected status of a parent (for example, engaging in abuse or neglect)
  • The biological parents can’t care for the child
  • A court finds the biological parents unfit to have custody

Getting child custody as a nonparent can be extremely challenging, especially if a biological parent is a viable option. Courts anticipate the child having the strongest bond with their biological parents, so judges will not separate children from their immediate family unless there are very good reasons to do so.

If you or someone you love wants custody of a child in North Carolina, you must prove in court that the biological parent is incapable of caring for the child or that the parents have acted inconsistently with their protected status as a parent. In either situation, you’ll need an experienced family law attorney to help you build your case and fight for custody.

RELATED ARTICLE: If My Ex Owes Child Support, Can I Stop Them From Seeing Our Kids?

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What Will the Court Consider When Evaluating My Custody Petition?

North Carolina courts’ primary goal in custody cases is to protect the well-being of the child or children. When a judge evaluates a custody petition, the factors the judge will consider include:

  • The parent’s living situation
  • The parent’s ability to take care of the child
  • The state of the parent’s relationship with the child
  • The child’s wishes, depending on their age

How Are Custody Cases for Grandparents or Stepparents Different Than Cases Between Parents?

In a custody case between parents only, the court reaches a decision based strictly on the child’s best interests. But when a grandparent, stepparent, or any other non-parent attempts to seek custody, that person must first prove that the parents have acted inconsistently with their protected status as parents or that the parents are unfit. In these cases, the court must reach a decision based on “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a higher standard of proof than the normal standard in custody cases that involve parents only.

The result is that grandparents and other nonparents often face an uphill battle for custody, even if most people would consider them the best suited to care for the child. Because of the challenges involved, you should work with an experienced and dedicated family law attorney if you’re a grandparent or stepparent and want to petition for custody.

RELATED: 5 Child Custody Myths, Debunked

Contact Myers Law Firm if You Need Help With Child Custody in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we know how important family is. That’s why we fight to protect families just like yours. If you’re fighting for custody of a child and you need help, contact us today. We can meet with you to answer your questions, help you understand your options, and create a plan for what comes next.

To schedule your initial consultation today, please call 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or complete our quick online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Six Tips for Healthy Holiday Co-Parenting

The holidays can be a stressful time for just about anyone, with all of the special events, shopping, family obligations, performances, and crazy schedules to juggle. But if you’re a separated or divorced parent, worrying about child custody and co-parenting over the holidays adds another level of stress. Now you have to navigate separate household schedules, extended family expectations, any lingering tensions, and both parents’ desire to spend as much time with your children as possible.

The thing is, your kids deserve happy, low-stress holidays surrounded by people who love them and want the best for them. No matter what else you and your co-parent may disagree on, you’re likely on the same page here. To help you keep that big picture in mind, here are six tips for healthy holiday co-parenting that can help reduce stress for both you and your children.

1. Make a Holiday Co-Parenting Plan

Your child custody agreement should contain a holiday schedule. This will make your planning easier since you’ve already decided how you’ll share the holidays. However, what worked when your child was six years old may no longer make sense when they’re sixteen. If you need to revise your holiday parenting plan, consult with a lawyer in advance. An attorney may be able to help you and your child’s other parent modify the schedule.

If you don’t already have a plan in place for your children’s holiday schedule and their time off from school, the best option is to sit down with your co-parent and build one together — if you can communicate effectively with the other parent. Don’t assume that just because you have your kids every Wednesday, and Christmas this year falls on a Wednesday, that you will be with the kids on Christmas Day. If you need help or reach an impasse, contact your family law attorney.

Remember that when you’re trying to get an agreement on custody, you’ll have to make compromises. Accept that you won’t get everything you want. Do your best to coordinate celebrations with your extended families, talk about any trips you want to take so your co-parent is on the same page, and try to make sure that you both have quality time with the kids. And remember, you can celebrate a holiday on whatever day you like — no matter what the calendar says.

2. Start New Family Traditions

After a separation, you may want to hang on to old traditions to try to recreate past happiness. But focusing on things you used to do may highlight the fact that your family isn’t the same anymore. If your kids will be sad that Dad isn’t there to set up the train set or Mom isn’t there to read the annual holiday bedtime story, then it’s time to start new traditions.

Perhaps you can introduce a tradition from your childhood, dig out your great-grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe, or establish an annual “movie marathon day” where no one gets out of their PJs. Whatever you do, keep the focus on being together and finding something that your new family unit can look forward to every year.

RELATED: How Should I Handle Visitation When My Child Doesn’t Want to Go?

3. Acknowledge That Things Are Different

Because many holiday celebrations are structured around time with families, they may trigger unexpected feelings after a separation or divorce. Your children may act out, or you may find yourself feeling lost— especially if this is your first holiday season as two separate families. The truth is that change is difficult, and holiday events can highlight the fact that nothing will ever be the same.

As you come to terms with these changes, you should acknowledge that reality with your children and validate everyone’s emotions. It’s also important to not only remain civil with your co-parent, but also to communicate with them about how your children are handling this change and working through their grief. This way, you will both be on the same page if the extra holiday stress causes tensions to rise.

4. Don’t Try to Buy Your Way to Love

A lot of recently separated parents try to overcompensate by buying lots of presents for their kids or blowing their budget on something expensive. But showering kids with big-ticket items isn’t going to change the fact that their parents aren’t together anymore. It can also lead to resentment or anger from your co-parent if your gift-giving habits are consistently over the top. Instead, try to coordinate gifts with your co-parent and agree on a budget well before the holidays. Having a plan in place can help keep “gift competition” at bay and also reduce the possibility of duplicate gifts.

5. Be Flexible During the Holidays

Not everything will be “fair” when co-parenting around the holidays. You’re not going to get everything you want when it comes to time with your kids, and neither is your co-parent. But being flexible and willing to make compromises where necessary is an act of goodwill that can make things much more pleasant for everyone in the long run.

It’s also good behavior to model for your children. So, for example, if your co-parent’s family celebrates Hanukkah, but you don’t, consider an agreement where your kids will spend every Hanukkah with that side of the family regardless of what you have going on. If your child is sick on the day they were going to celebrate Thanksgiving with your co-parent, be open to helping them find another time that works for everyone, even if that happens to be one of “your” days with the kids.

RELATED: Use These 5 Tips to Create a Parenting Plan That Works

6. Practice Self-Care

Parents who take care of themselves both mentally and physically are better able to take care of their children. This is doubly true for those of you trying to peacefully co-parent during the holidays. To keep stress to a minimum while managing everyone’s busy holiday schedules, try to get enough sleep, eat well, and protect your personal downtime.

Be intentional about spending quality time with friends and family, especially when your kids are with their co-parent. And if you feel conflict or stress beginning to escalate beyond what you feel you can manage, don’t hesitate to seek out help from a third party, such as a therapist, mediator, or family lawyer.

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Myers Law Firm: Experienced Family Law and Custody Attorneys

At Myers Law Firm, we are committed to providing the highest degree of personal service to our clients as they navigate through difficult periods in their lives. If you are facing child custody complications during the holidays, our experienced and compassionate attorneys can serve as a source of support or guidance—both in and outside of the courtroom. We will answer your questions and work with you every step of the way.

To schedule a consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us using our online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Medical Care Decisions and Divorce

Most people who receive vaccines are underage children who rely on their parents to make medical decisions for them. When parents disagree on whether to vaccinate their child, frustration and arguments can follow. And when a vaccination argument gets wrapped up in a divorce and all the other related legal complications, it can make it very hard for parents to find common ground.

So, what happens when separated or divorced parents can’t agree about essential medical care decisions such as immunizations? In this article, we’ll talk about how courts treat these disagreements and give an overview of your rights and options.

North Carolina Laws Regarding Vaccines

You may have noticed news about vaccinations (or the lack of them) hitting closer to home over the past year. In November 2018, a school in Buncombe County made national news when at least 36 students became infected with chickenpox. As reported by The Daily Tar Heel, this was one of the worst outbreaks in North Carolina since 1995. The outbreak occurred at a private school with one of the highest religious exemption rates for vaccinations in the state.

Stories like this may make you wonder what North Carolina law has to say about vaccines. Before a vaccination dispute with your ex-partner or divorced spouse escalates to the courts, it’s important to understand state law and how courts may apply the law in your case.

According to North Carolina law, children may not attend school (whether public, private or religious) or a childcare facility unless they have received all immunizations appropriate for their age. However, state law allows for two types of exemptions from the vaccine requirement:

    • Medical exemption

      If a doctor who is licensed to practice in North Carolina certifies that the required vaccines could harm the child based on certain known and accepted medical factors, then the child isn’t required to receive the vaccines for as long as the relevant medical factors continue. To get the exemption for the child, the doctor must fill out a specific form from the Department of Health and Human Services.

    • Religious exemption

      Parents whose deeply held religious beliefs conflict with the vaccination requirements can’t be forced to vaccinate their children. No official form exists for requesting religious exemptions in North Carolina. To claim a religious exemption, the parent requesting the exemption for their child must write a statement explaining their religious objection to immunizations, including the name and date of birth of the child. Then, the parent must provide this statement to any schools, camps, or childcare facilities that the child attends. The statement doesn’t need to be signed by a religious leader, notarized, drafted by a lawyer, or reviewed by any authority.

Our state does not allow for any exceptions to vaccination requirements based on personal or philosophical beliefs. So, parents who hold anti-vaccination views that aren’t based on religious convictions cannot receive an exemption for their child based on those beliefs.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: Can I Move Away With My Child During a Custody Case?

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How Do N.C. Courts Resolve Vaccination Disagreements?

So, what do North Carolina courts do when separated or divorced parents disagree over vaccinations and can’t resolve the issue on their own? Several different paths are possible, but in general, the judge must always make their decision based on the child’s best interests. How the process plays out will depend on your custody status.

  • If you have sole legal custody of your child, you’ll have the final say on vaccinations. However, the child’s other parent could petition the court to modify the custody order if they strongly disagree with your decision. The likelihood of the other parent preventing your decision in this scenario depends on the history of the case and why you ended up with sole legal custody to begin with.
  • If you share joint legal custody of your child and can’t come to an agreement with the other parent, you have three options:
    • One option is to go to the judge. Judges don’t like making these kinds of decisions, but in some cases, it’s the only option. The judge will have to determine what would serve the best interests of the child, which may require input from the child’s pediatrician.
    • A second option is to attempt mediation. This would still require you and the other parent to reach an agreement. Although it might seem like there’s no room for compromise at first, you may be able to find a middle ground. For example, you might agree to a vaccination schedule that’s spread out over time compared to the traditional administration schedule.
    • A third option is to go to binding arbitration. In an arbitration proceeding, a qualified family lawyer hears the evidence and reaches a decision much as the judge would do. This option is usually the quickest of the three, but you and the other parent will be responsible paying the costs.

If your child is older, the judge may ask the child whether they want to receive vaccinations and take their answer into account. Even if the judge does talk to your child, the child’s position is only one factor among many the judge will consider. There’s no set age for when a judge will talk to a child, but the judge must determine that the child is old enough to understand the nature of the decision. The older the child, the more weight the judge will give to their input.

No matter how much you want to avoid going to court, there are some areas where you may feel you can’t compromise, and vaccinations may be one of them. If the other parent wants to take a path with your child’s medical treatment that you believe places your child in harm’s way, then you may have to draw the line and fight. If the disagreement reaches this point, then you should contact a family law attorney who can fight aggressively in court to protect your child.

Myers Law Firm: Protecting Parents’ Rights in Charlotte, North Carolina

If you and the other parent can’t come to an agreement regarding vaccinations or you have concerns about your child’s custody order when it comes to vaccines, our experienced family law team at Myers Law Firm is here help. We’re committed to protecting your rights and serving the best interests of your child.

To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us online using our online contact form.

References

N.C. exemptions. (n.d.). North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.immunize.nc.gov/schools/ncexemptions.htm

N.C. immunization requirements. (n.d.). North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.immunize.nc.gov/family/nc_immnz_requirements.htm

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Child Custody and Relocating

Divorce is difficult on the entire family, but children are often affected the hardest. If you are a divorced or separated parent and are considering relocating with your child, you should know that you might not be allowed to move, especially if the court decides the relocation is not in the child’s best interest.

If you are moving a relatively short distance or the move will not affect the current custody arrangement, the move should not be an issue. However, to move your child out of the state or a considerable distance within the state, you will need either an agreement with the other parent or court approval. If you have questions about whether you need to get approval to move or if you need help convincing a court that you should be able to relocate with your child, you should speak with an experienced family law and child custody attorney.

In this article, we’ll highlight a few key custody terms and discuss how a court will determine whether a custodial parent can move with their child.

5 Key Child Custody Terms

Child custody can be complicated, so before you dive into whether you can relocate with your child, make sure you understand these five custody terms.

  1. Primary Custodial Parent: The parent who has primary physical custody of the child — meaning the child lives with that parent most of the time.
  2. Legal Custody: The right to make decisions for the child that have lasting or more long-term significance, such as decisions about education, religious practice, and healthcare.
  3. Joint Custody: Both parents have relatively equal physical and/or legal custody of the child.
  4. Visitation: The time the child spends with the parent who does not have primary custody, as outlined in the custody agreement.
  5. Relocation: The custodial parent is seeking to move away with the child — either out of state or a certain distance away.

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Child Custody Myths, Debunked

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What Determines Whether I Can Relocate With My Child?

If you are trying to move your child out of state or a significant distance away and cannot reach an agreement about the relocation with the other parent, the court has the right to determine whether you can move. There are often advdantages and disadvantages regarding the relocation of a child during a custody case. So, if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, the court will likely permit the move.

The court will have to determine whether, in the judge’s opinion, the move is in the best interest of the child. In a move-away case, there are a variety of factors the judge will consider when making this determination, including:

1. What are the advantages of the relocation in terms of improving the life of the child?

This factor looks at how the move will make life better for the child. Examples may include moving closer to the parent’s family so there is a better support network, whether the schools are substantially better in the new location, or if the weather in the new location might help a chronic health problem the child has.

2. What are the motives of the primary custodial parent in seeking the move?

Sometimes, a parent will attempt to move out of state to avoid court rulings or to make visitation more difficult. These are certainly negative reasons to move, and the court will not look favorably on them. However, if you have a legitimate reason to move, such as for a new job, safer neighborhood, or better school district, your motives will be viewed as having a positive impact on the child.

3. What is the likelihood that the primary custodial parent will comply with visitation orders?

Depending on how far you are trying to relocate, visitation could become difficult. A visitation and travel agreement will need to be worked out with the other parent. The court will consider how likely you are to comply with the visitation agreement and assist the other parent with their visitation rights and arrangements.

4. Does the noncustodial parent have a reason to resist the relocation?

Sometimes a noncustodial parent may have legitimate reasons to resist the child’s relocation. If the noncustodial parent has a concern about how the relocation will affect the child or their relationship with the child, they will likely hire an attorney to help them present a strong argument against the relocation. You should always keep the child’s best interests in mind, but if you believe the noncustodial parent would be wrong to resist the relocation, hire an experienced family law attorney for help supporting your move.

5. Will the relocation significantly weaken the noncustodial parent’s relationship with the child?

Another reason a noncustodial parent may oppose the relocation is if they are concerned that it may have a serious effect on their relationship with the child. The stress and hassle of long-distance visitation and travel arrangements can make visits less frequent, shorter, and less enjoyable. If the relocation is likely to have such a negative effect on the relationship between the noncustodial parent and child, the court may deny the request. In this case, it is important to prove to the court that you will do whatever is necessary to help the noncustodial parent foster their relationship with your child.

The judge should consider all the factors outlined above, and no one factor trumps the others. There may also be other factors to bring up when considering a move or opposing a move, depending on the facts of your case.

Myers Law Firm: Experienced Family Law and Child Custody Attorneys

Not sure if you need permission to relocate with your child? Contact Myers Law Firm to discuss your custody and relocation options. Our experienced family law and child custody attorneys will help you understand your rights and options.

Call today at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or complete this brief online form for your free consultation.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Child Custody Case

In 2015, more than a quarter of all children under 21 years of age had a parent living outside of their household, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Whether the parents were divorced or separated, many of these arrangements involved formal or informal child custody agreements.

There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about custody cases, due in large part to the fact that child custody agreements and rulings depend on factors specific to each situation. Dealing with child custody issues can be a very emotional and complex process, so it’s important to understand some of the common myths before you get started and work with a family attorney to better understand your options.

Continue reading to get a quick overview of typical custody considerations and learn about five child custody myths you shouldn’t believe.

What Happens in a Typical Child Custody Case?

Before we dive into some of the many myths that exist about child custody, it’s important to have a general understanding of how child custody cases and agreements work.

In a child custody case, you’ll need to determine which type of arrangement you want, whether you can settle outside of court, and which factors might affect who gains full or partial custody.

  • Type of Custody Arrangement

You’ll need to decide two main issues:

    • Physical custody, which is where the child is on a given day or night (sole custody, visitation, etc.); and
    • Legal custody, which is decision-making on major issues affecting the child’s well-being.
  • In-Court or Out-Of-Court Agreements

Sometimes, parents can resolve custody agreements outside of court with the help of attorneys and counselors. If the parents can’t decide on the type of arrangement and custody terms, a judge will have to make the decision.

  • Deciding Factors

When making a custody ruling, the court will consider factors such as what’s best for the child, who has been the current primary caregiver, and where the parents live, among many other factors.

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5 Child Custody Myths, Debunked

Now that we have a better understanding of some of the details involved in a custody dispute, let’s examine five of the most common myths about child custody.

Myth 1: I’ll Have to Go to Court if There Is a Custody Disagreement

Even if there is a disagreement regarding custodial arrangements, you still may be able to settle your custody case outside of court. Alternative solutions include:

    • Informal Negotiations

      An informal negotiation involves both parents meeting and deciding on the custody agreement. Once the parents come to a decision, an attorney for one of the parents will draft a legal document for them to sign, finalizing the agreement. These negotiations could also take place between attorneys for each parent.

    • Mediation

      This is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process where a neutral third party helps the parents work through differences and concerns to reach an agreement. Each parent can have an attorney represent them in the mediation.

    • Arbitration

      This solution is more formal than mediation but still keeps the dispute outside of a courtroom. Instead of a mediator who tries to get a mutual agreement, both sides have an attorney and can hire experts as needed to support their claim. The parties present their case to an arbitrator, who makes the final decision.
      Arbitration can be binding or nonbinding. If you go through binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision will be final, and the court won’t overturn it except in very unusual and limited circumstances.

RELATED ARTICLE: Use These 5 Tips to Create A Parenting Plan That Works

Myth 2: A Child Can Choose Which Parent to Live With

Children do not get to decide which parent or guardian receives custody. However, some judges will hear from a child if the child is old enough to make a rational decision. If the child expresses an opinion, the child’s preference is only one factor for the judge to consider, and it usually only affects a decision if both parents are equally qualified to receive custody.

Children typically must be at least 10 years old to be able to talk to a judge. If a child is vehemently opposed to living with one parent, the judge may appoint a guardian to represent the child’s interests and determine what the problem is.

Myth 3: Mothers Always Receive Full Custody

Mothers don’t always receive full or even primary custody of the child. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of fathers with full or primary custody is increasing every year. The deciding factor in custody cases is what’s best for the child, which courts often determine based on which parent has been acting as the primary caregiver. Actions that indicate someone is a primary caregiver include feeding and bathing the child, taking the child to school, and making doctor’s appointments.

Because many households still operate with the mother as primary caregiver, courts may lean toward mothers when awarding custody. However, some fathers act as the primary caregiver or are available to become a primary caregiver after a divorce. In these cases, the court could award primary custody to the father. In general, there is a notable trend toward more equal custody arrangements.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Child Custody Case

Myth 4: Only Parents Can Get Custody of a Child

While courts do prioritize keeping children with their parents in custody cases, there are some situations where they don’t grant custody to a parent. Grandparents are the most likely to receive custody over the child’s biological parents, but other family members or friends can also obtain custody in certain situations.

Every case is different, and it can be difficult to establish that a biological parent shouldn’t have custody over a third party. Some of the reasons a court may grant a non-parent permanent physical and legal custody of a child are if the parent:

    • Has neglected the child
    • Has emotionally or physically abused the child
    • Will be incarcerated until the child is 18
    • Is physically or psychologically unable to care for the child
    • Has a known and serious problem with drugs or alcohol

Myth 5: I Can Withhold Visitation if the Other Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support

Not only is this false, but the other parent may be able to change the custody arrangement in their favor if you withhold visitation without court approval.

RELATED ARTICLE: If My Ex Owes Child Support, Can I Stop Them From Seeing Our Kids?

Never try to force or coerce the other parent into paying their share of child support by withholding the child. If the other parent isn’t paying support, tell your attorney. Not receiving the full agreed-upon child support amount is a common issue that courts know how to handle. The judge will deal with the issue and penalize the parent appropriately with fines, wage garnishment, or even jail time.

Myers Law Firm: A Trusted North Carolina Child Custody Law Firm

Confused about your rights and options regarding child custody arrangements? The family lawyers at Myers Law Firm are here to answer all your questions. At Myers Law Firm, our attorneys have experience helping parents settle custody agreements both in and outside of the courtroom and will work with you every step of the way.

Please contact Myers Law Firm today for help with your child custody arrangements by calling 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or completing this brief online form.

References

Grall, T. (2018, January). Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support: 2015 (P60-262). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/P60-262.pdf

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Child Support Issue

Dealing with a parent who refuses to stay current on their child support can lead to plenty of anger and frustration. Sometimes, parents try to handle the problem by revoking visitation rights until the other parent pays the support they owe.

While it’s understandable to try and take any action you can to get the money your children need, preventing the other parent from seeing their children is almost always a bad idea. In this article, we’ll explain why and talk about what you can do instead.

Revoking Visitation Rights Until You Receive Payment Is Risky

While you might see child support and child custody as part of the same big picture, the court views them as separate issues. A parent’s failure to pay child support could eventually factor into a court’s order regarding custody, but failing to follow a child support order has no immediate effect on any other court orders. So, if you try to prevent the other parent from exercising the visitation rights granted to them by a court order, you could be in contempt.

Violating a court order comes with serious consequences. The court can impose additional hearings, fines, make-up visits, child support suspension, and in extreme cases, loss of custody. These long-term ramifications could be much worse for you and your children than missing the few late payments you are fighting to receive.

And you don’t just risk losing the court’s favor when you withhold visitation. The court can also hold you in contempt and even send you to jail for violating the custody agreement. At minimum, a contempt hearing will cost you time and money, and it’s something you should avoid.

But just because you can’t withhold visitation doesn’t mean your ex can fail to pay child support and get away with it. You can force them to pay what they owe or face the consequences, but you need to go about it the right way — with help from an experienced attorney.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: What You Need to Know About North Carolina Child Support

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An Attorney Can Help Protect Your Rights and Enforce a Child Support Order

The consequences of violating a court order cut both ways. If your ex refuses to pay child support, they’re in violation, and they risk being held in contempt and receiving fines or even jail time. Your lawyer can bring the unpaid support to the court’s attention and file motions that could cause your ex to face collection measures like garnished wages, a judgment against them, and a suspended driver’s license or hunting license. Best of all, these options will keep you in the court’s good graces and won’t put you in danger of violating a court order.

In cases where you and your ex reside in different states, additional federal laws protect your right to child support. For example, if the child support order was made in North Carolina, where you and your children reside, the North Carolina court retains authority over the matter no matter where your ex moves. The state court has sole authority to amend the order, and only that court’s order is enforceable. The benefit of this provision is that your ex can’t move to another state to escape their child support obligations.

For more detailed information about your options when the other parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support, read our previous blog article on this subject.

RELATED BLOG ARTICLE: What to Do When the Other Parent Won’t Pay Child Support

Myers Law Firm: Helping Parents in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Collect Child Support

At Myers Law Firm, our family law attorneys are here to support you and fight for your rights during the challenges of a divorce and the accompanying legal matters like child custody and child support. If the other parent owes child support and refuses to pay, we can help you hold them accountable without violating any existing court orders.

For more information on how our family law attorneys can help you, schedule an initial consultation by filling out our convenient online contact form or calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889).

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Child Visitation

Watching your child leave for a visitation with the other parent can be gut-wrenching, especially if your child is acting like she doesn’t want to leave you. However, children can get upset at a visitation hand-off for many reasons. While you should always take your child’s safety and welfare seriously, it’s also important that you don’t act out of raw emotion and do something that could get you in a lot of trouble with the court.

Rather than trying to prevent the child from going with the other parent, the right way to address a serious concern is to work with an attorney and file a petition to modify your child custody order. However, before you take that step, it’s important to assess your child’s situation carefully. In this article, we’ll provide some guidelines you can use to do that.

Don’t Automatically Assume Your Child Is in Danger with Your Ex

It’s important to remember that the younger your child is, the fewer tools they have to express and explain their feelings. Depending on their age and level of development, your child may cry because they are anxious, afraid, sad, uncertain, or just tired and hungry. While it can be tempting to assume that your child gets upset at a visitation handoff because they don’t like your ex (especially if that’s how you feel), that’s rarely a fair assumption. Frequently, both parents will make claims that the child is upset when returning to the other parent. Your child might be upset for a variety of other reasons, including the ones listed below.

RELATED ARTICLE: Can I Prevent My Spouse From Seeing the Children During a Divorce?

They’re Mimicking Subtle Cues That You’re Upset

Even if you’re not openly badmouthing your ex, it’s easy to accidentally voice your unhappiness with a visitation schedule or some other aspect of your relationship with them. For example, think about the emotional impact of these statements and gestures:

  • “I don’t want you to go, but your mom says you have to.”
  • “I’ll miss you so much! I’ll be sad all weekend without you.”
  • “I’m so glad you’re home! I can’t stand being away from you.”
  • You refuse to leave the car or make eye contact with your ex during the hand-off.
  • You’re tearful or tense every time you drop your child off.
  • You cry in relief when your child returns home.

Children are great observers, but they don’t have the sophistication to understand the practical aspects of divorce, which means they’ll look to you for guidance. When you seem sad, anxious, or hurt at a visitation hand-off, they may pick up on your emotional state and assume that they’re not safe with the other parent or that you’re upset with them for leaving.

They’re Trying to Validate Your Importance

Sometimes, children will feign sadness to make you feel better. They might know you feel sad or conflicted about their time with their other parent. Because of this, they might feel uncomfortable happily running to their other parent and think that you’ll feel better if they seem sad to leave you.

Change Is Difficult for Kids

Changes and transitions can be hard for children regardless of their age. Think about how difficult it was for you to switch schools or move to a new neighborhood as a child. No matter how positive your child’s time is with their other parent, the process of leaving you and your home might bring about anxiety.

They’d Rather Do Something Else

As children age, their priorities shift. Rather than spend time with their parents, they may prefer to hang out with friends. They may also increasingly want to avoid chores and other family obligations, and they may resent it when those obligations cause them to miss out on something that they’d prefer to do. If a visitation schedule conflicts with a child’s social or extracurricular schedule, either parent can experience pushback from the child.

Assess Your Child’s Unhappiness With Help From a Professional

When your child is resisting visitation, do your best to assess the situation impartially. In most cases, you need to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent, even if it’s difficult for you to do so. Try not to get into discussions about the other parent that may paint the other parent in a negative light because of your own view. Instead, help make the transition positive and be encouraging.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Child Custody Case

If you need help with this process, consult a trained counselor or a child custody lawyer. A professional can help you identify the core issues your child is having with visitation and work with you to build a comprehensive plan that protects your child’s emotional and physical health.

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If You Have Real Concerns About Your Child’s Safety, Contact a Custody Lawyer Immediately

Your child’s safety is your top priority, and you have legal options if you genuinely believe that visitation with the other parent poses a threat to your child’s safety and well-being. First, if you believe your child is in imminent danger, you should call 911 and inform the authorities.

After that, contact a child custody lawyer. A lawyer can work with you to quickly create an emergency response plan. This plan might involve a protective order against an abusive parent, a temporary modification in the visitation schedule, or other protections for your child.

What Should I Do If My Ex Is Interfering With My Visitation Rights?

North Carolina law recognizes that children typically benefit from having meaningful relationships with both parents and establishes many legal protections for both parents’ custody rights. If you believe that your ex is interfering with your visitation rights or attempting to damage your relationship with your child, contact a child custody lawyer immediately. If the other parent has violated the court’s child custody order, it can lead to civil or criminal contempt of court charges, and it also might merit a change to your existing parenting plan or child custody order.

You Can Modify the Visitation Schedule if There’s Been a Significant Change in Your Family’s Circumstances

As your child’s needs change, so can your visitation schedule. If it looks like your child has outgrown their existing child custody plan, or if your family’s circumstances have changed, it’s time to consult an experienced family law attorney.

RELATED ARTICLE: Use These 5 Tips to Make a Parenting Plan That Works

Sometimes, a lawyer can help you negotiate a new parenting plan with your ex outside of court. However, if this doesn’t work or isn’t appropriate due to your circumstances, your lawyer can help you file a petition to modify visitation.

Myers Law Firm: Child Custody Lawyers for Parents in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

Myers Law Firm is one of Charlotte’s leading family law and child custody firms. If you need help with a child custody issue, contact us to schedule your initial consultation. We’ll listen to your story and help you understand your legal options. To request your consultation today, simply complete our online form or call us at (888) 376-2889.

References

Definitions, Article 1, Chapter 50, N.C. General Statutes. § 50-16.1A. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_50/GS_50-16.1A.pdf

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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Five Tips for Creating a Parenting Plan

Child custody cases in North Carolina don’t always have to go to court. Some parents settle child custody issues by working together in voluntary agreement to create a parenting plan. This plan establishes a schedule for time-sharing and explains both parents’ duties and responsibilities when it comes to raising the child or children.

While carefully-crafted parenting plans can make life easier and more peaceful for both parents and children, creating a good one can be hard work. A successful parenting plan needs to be detailed, thorough, and thoughtful. In this article, we’ll provide five tips for creating a parenting plan that serves your child’s best interests and stands the test of time.

1. Make Sure Your Parenting Plan Is Detailed

Even if you and the other parent have a cordial relationship and you feel like everything is going smoothly, it’s important to make sure your parenting plan discusses the specifics about who the child stays with and when.

Think of your parenting plan as your failsafe. If you and the other parent keep getting along, that’s great, and you can share time with your child based on informal agreements and the child’s wishes. But if disagreements start to come up — and it’s easy for that to happen, even among parents who aren’t divorced or separated — then you’ll know you can fall back to your parenting plan to provide guidance.

2. Plan for Lots of Different Scenarios

If your parenting plan only covers “business as usual” situations, then it won’t help you once the day-to-day roller coaster of real life with children kicks in. It’s important to make sure your parenting plan anticipates lots of different scenarios that can arise.

For example, what happens if the other parent has an important event come up during their parenting time and wants to have someone you don’t know babysit? In that case, you might prefer to have the child back with you until the other parent returns. If your parenting plan doesn’t discuss situations like this, then you won’t have much ground to stand on.

3. Be Ready to Compromise

There’s a well-known saying that goes, “A really good compromise is one that leaves both parties equally unhappy.” This might be a pessimistic way to look at negotiation, but there’s truth to it, too. The core principle of compromise is you have to give up things you want in order to get things that you really want, and that’s true when working with the other parent to create a parenting plan.

RELATED: 7 Co-Parenting Tips That Can Prevent Back-To-School Headaches

When you’re negotiating the details of your parenting plan, remember that this process is about your child’s best interests first and foremost. It’s not about what’s best for you. And keep in mind that most children do best when they’re allowed to maintain a strong relationship with both parents. To get there, you’ll probably have to agree to some things that don’t fit with your ideal picture of your life with your children, but so will the other parent.

As long as you both let your child’s well-being and emotional health take priority over any issues between you, your parenting plan should be able to strike a balance that works for everyone.

4. Give Your Plan Room to Grow

The one thing you can count on with children is that they’re going to change. That’s why a parenting plan that’s too rigid and rests on everything staying the same is destined to fail in the long term.

Rather than try to draw up a plan that will perform the impossible and anticipate how your life and your child’s life will have changed in a few years, it’s fine — and sometimes even ideal — to build re-evaluation into the plan. You can include specific provisions that require you and the other parent to try alternatives before returning to court. This might include choosing a mediator or therapist who can help with transitions and facilitate the conversations that need to happen when updating the plan.

5. Hire a Lawyer to Draft Your Parenting Plan

An experienced family law attorney should know all the details your parenting plan needs to succeed in the long term. Besides their knowledge of the law, your attorney should have plenty of real-world experience with what works and what doesn’t when it comes to drawing up a forward-thinking, flexible, and thorough parenting plan.

You don’t want to end up going to court every six months over disagreements about your plan because it wasn’t designed to last, and working with a lawyer at the beginning of the process is the best way to avoid this. A good lawyer can also move quickly to protect your rights if the other parent refuses to compromise or starts violating the terms of the parenting plan.

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Myers Law Firm Can Help With Parenting Plans and Child Custody Issues in North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we understand that child custody cases are difficult for both parents, so we approach every family law case with compassion and understanding to search for solutions. While we excel at negotiating to find constructive compromises, we’re always prepared to stand up in court and fight for your rights with an aggressive approach if that’s what it takes to serve your child’s best interests.

The attorneys at Myers Law Firm have experience handling all the family law issues that surround the end of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, property division, and divorce. We’re here if you need help. To get in touch with us, call our offices at 888-376-2889 or fill out our online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Child's Welfare

As a parent, your child’s welfare is your top priority. If you’re going through a divorce and you’re worried that your child might be at risk of harm under the other parent’s supervision, you might want to shield your child from the other parent and get sole child custody on a temporary basis.

The laws that govern this type of situation can be confusing to parents, so we’ll try to clear them up for you. In this article, we’ll talk about how to get temporary or emergency custody of a child in North Carolina, and we’ll also discuss when sole custody is a long-term option.

When Can I Get Temporary or Emergency Custody of My Child in North Carolina?

During a divorce, most parents agree to an informal child custody arrangement before the final child custody hearing, when the court issues an order that determines custody from that point on. However, sometimes a parent’s behavior puts a child in danger or unfairly limits the other parent’s custody time.

In these circumstances, a judge in North Carolina might award temporary or emergency custody. While they sound similar, temporary child custody and emergency custody are actually different.

  • Emergency custody: To get emergency custody, you must show that shared or joint custody would put your child at serious risk for injury, abuse, abduction, or removal from North Carolina. Getting emergency custody can be a complicated and contentious process. If you need emergency custody, it’s in your best interest to immediately contact a Charlotte child custody lawyer.
  • Temporary parenting arrangement: While temporary custody procedures vary from county to county, Mecklenburg Count awards temporary custody through a temporary parenting arrangement. Your situation might qualify for temporary custody if there’s evidence the other parent is denying you access to your child, if there are legitimate mental health or substance abuse concerns, or if a parent is moving. Temporary parenting arrangements are also available when one parent goes on a military deployment.

Typically, the court will schedule a temporary custody hearing two to four weeks after you file a petition. These hearings tend to last about an hour.

You can also petition for emergency custody through a domestic violence protective order. However, such an order can only control custody or visitation for a temporary period of at most one year.

It’s important to understand that you should never simply take your child or deny the other parent access to your children unless you either have the support of a court order or you have serious, legitimate concerns about the safety of your child with the other parent. Abducting your child or refusing to share parenting time can lead to you losing custody or facing criminal charges, especially if you can’t prove there was an imminent danger to the child.

If you need help with an urgent child custody matter in Charlotte or Mecklenburg County, get in touch with us right away.

Will a Temporary Parenting Arrangement Affect My Right to Permanent Child Custody?

In Mecklenburg County, temporary parenting arrangements will generally control the custody arrangement until the final trial for permanent custody. When the judge finally creates the permanent order, they can make any alterations they want — they aren’t required to keep the same stipulations from the temporary agreement. If there was evidence of poor parenting decisions or other misconduct while the temporary parenting arrangement was in effect, your child custody lawyer should bring these issues up again at the final child custody hearing.

RELATED: 7 Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Child Custody Case

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Understanding the Types of Child Custody

Before we address sole custody and the grounds of sole custody, it’s important to understand the two types of North Carolina child custody.

  • Legal custody: The right to make important long-term life decisions for your child, such as directing their education, healthcare, and religious upbringing
  • Physical custody: The right to supervise your child on a day-to-day basis and make routine decisions for them

Parents can have sole or joint custody of the child for both types of custody. Sole custody is when one parent has full control of legal custody, physical custody, or both; joint custody is when both parents share custody. Joint custody can take many forms and can range from one parent having primary custody (meaning the child is with that parent the majority of the time) and the other having secondary custody or the parents having a schedule that is almost equal. It’s not uncommon for one parent to have sole legal custody of the child while the parents have some sort of joint physical custody arrangement.

Ideally, you and your child’s other parent will negotiate a child custody agreement outside of court. However, this isn’t always possible. If you can’t come to an agreement, a judge will review your case and award custody based on the best interests of the child.

How Do I Get Sole Custody of My Child in North Carolina?

To get sole custody of a child, you must show that joint legal or physical custody is either impossible, impractical, or would put your child’s welfare at risk. While most people associate sole custody with contentious breakups or abusive situations, a court might also decide that sole custody is in a child’s best interests if one parent hasn’t played a role in the child’s life or hasn’t sought custody.

The court also has ways to address situations where one parent works irregular hours, travels frequently for work, lives out of state, or is otherwise unable to consistently parent and care for the child. In these cases, the judge may order a schedule that places the child with one parent the majority of the time. Meanwhile, the other parent gets visitation that works with that parent’s schedule or that minimizes the child missing school if travel is required.

Getting sole physical and legal custody can be difficult without help from an experienced child custody lawyer. If you have legitimate concerns about the other parent’s ability and willingness to care for your child, contact Myers Law Firm for a confidential case evaluation. We can help you understand your rights and talk you through your custody options.

Myers Law Firm: Advocates for Parents and Children in North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, our goal is to protect both parents and children during a breakup or divorce. We work closely with our clients, taking time to understand their concerns, developing personalized legal strategies that meet their needs, and vigorously fighting for their rights.

While we pride ourselves in handling child custody issues peaceably and with compassion, we’re committed to protecting your rights and advocating for your child’s best interests above any other concern. To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or get in touch with us using our online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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How Military Service Will Affect Their Child Custody Case

Figuring out a parenting plan after a divorce or separation is rarely easy. For members of our armed forces, who may face the possibility of relocation and deployment in the future, things can get even more complicated. 

If you’re serving in the military and have child custody issues that still need resolution, you probably have lots of questions about what your service means for your custody case. In this article, we’ll try to answer a few of the most common questions that military servicemembers tend to ask about how their service will affect their child custody case in North Carolina. 

Will My Military Status Hurt My Child Custody Case? 

According to the law, military parents shouldn’t be treated any differently than civilians when it comes to child custody matters and other family law proceedings. And in fact, they have some special protections under the law; for example, the North Carolina General Statutes section 50-13.2(f) states that a military deployment can’t be used as the only basis for a child custody order.  

So, when handling cases involving military parents, the court is generally supposed to consider the same factors as it does when settling child custody cases involving civilians. In theory, this means your military status shouldn’t negatively affect your child custody case.  

However, some military service members still worry that a judge will view them as less suitable primary caretakers for children because the possibility of relocation and deployment always hovers over their lives. This can be a valid concern, because the court still has to consider the child’s best interests above all other factors — even the special legal protections for armed forces members — when deciding a child custody matter, and military deployments can be disruptive to a child’s life. 

All of this makes it very difficult to say what will happen in any given child custody case involving a military parent. The best advice we can give you is to consult with an experienced family law attorney who knows the local courthouses and judges and who can give you legal advice based on the unique facts of your case. 

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What If My Ex-Spouse Tries to Change Our Custody Agreement While I’m Deployed? 

One thing that military parents tend to worry about is their ex-spouse using a deployment as an opportunity to try and make a grab for custody of their children. The idea of your spouse trying to start up a custody battle while you’re away on active duty can understandably create a lot of anxiety. 

Fortunately, a law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) creates special protections for military parents. One of these protections is an automatic stay (or freeze) on any civil legal proceedings that involve the military parent. 

RELATED: When And How Can I Modify Child Support in North Carolina?

This means that if your ex-spouse files for custody while you’re deployed, the case will immediately get put on hold for a set amount of time (usually 90 days). You’ll get notified about the legal action, but nothing will happen with the case until that window of time expires. And in some cases, a judge may even decide to extend the stay further until your deployment ends. 

It’s important to note that SCRA protections aren’t absolute, though. Your children’s best interests still take precedence, so if your spouse can convince the court that there’s an urgent and compelling reason for them to take custody, they may be able to successfully change your child custody agreement while you’re deployed. 

What If I Don’t Want My Ex to Get Custody While I’m Deployed? 

Many military parents worry that their ex may get full-time custody of their child while they’re away, but that doesn’t have to be the case. North Carolina law has a special statute called the “Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act” that deals with custody issues while one parent is deployed. This law basically gives you and the other parent two options: you can both agree on a temporary parenting plan while you’re deployed, or either one of you can seek a temporary court order determining child custody for the length of the deployment. 

The most important thing you need to know if you’re a military parent and have an upcoming deployment is that you can work with an attorney to file a motion and request that another person of your choice receive what’s known as “custodial responsibility” while you’re deployed. The person you choose must be an adult family member; many deploying parents choose their current spouse or a grandparent. 

“Custodial responsibility” means that the person you choose will basically get custody rights in your place on a temporary basis. In addition to the essential day-to-day decisions that come with acting as a caretaker for a child, the person you choose can have the power to make important decisions regarding your child’s education, extracurricular activities, health care, travel, and religious training. However, they can only get the same amount of custodial time that you had with your child prior to deployment. 

Also, you should always remember that if you get notified of an upcoming deploymentNorth Carolina law requires you to tell the other parent about it within seven days of receiving your orders. 

Myers Law Firm Can Help With  Child Custody Issues for Military Parents 

As we said before, general information can only take you so far when it comes to your child custody case. For help and legal advice that are based on the unique facts of your case and your military service, contact our team at Myers Law Firm today by calling 888-376-2889 or filling out the contact form on our website. 

The attorneys at Myers Law Firm have experience handling all the major legal issues that tend to follow a divorce, including alimony, child custody, child support, and property division. While we excel at respectful negotiation and will work to find common ground with the other side, we’re ready to stand up in court and fight for your rights with an aggressive approach if that’s what it takes to get results. 

References 

Consideration of parent’s military service. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.2(f) (2016). Retrieved from https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_50/GS_50-13.2.pdf 

Uniform deployed parents custody and visitation act. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-3 (2016). Retrieved from https://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/ByArticle/Chapter_50A/Article_3.pdf 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Separation Agreement or Consent Order

When a couple divorces, the non-custodial parent makes ongoing, court-ordered payments to the parent who has custody of the child. These payments help cover the child’s reasonable needs and expenses. The parties work out a child support payment amount in a separation agreement or consent order, or the court orders an amount after a trial. 

Child Support Overview

In North Carolina, the courts determine the amount of child support based on a formula that looks at three primary factors: 

  1. The gross monthly income of both parents
  2. The custody schedule
  3. The number of children  

If a party wishes to modify a child support order, they can file a motion with the court at any time. However, understanding the conditions that qualify for filing a child support modification are important, and we’ll discuss seven common scenarios in this article. 

In addition, the child support modification process is complex, so we’ll also explain why you should consider hiring an attorney and how Myers Law Firm can help you and your loved ones with a child support case.

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Seven Common Reasons Parents Request a Child Support Modification 

To start the process, if you’re trying to increase or decrease child support, you must provide enough evidence to justify the change. 

If child support is part of a marital settlement agreement, the court can modify the child support order if the court finds that the amount in the agreement is unreasonable. However, if the child support order is based on a court order, the child support amount can’t be changed unless you prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

RELATED: What to Do When the Other Parent Won’t Pay Child Support

What counts as a “substantial change”? Below are seven common scenarios that may qualify for a child support modification. 

1. The passage of three years since the entry of the prior order and a 15% or more change in the amount of child support 

In North Carolina, courts use a set of legal guidelines called the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines to set child support. If your existing order is at least three years old, and if an application of the Guidelines to your current situation would change your child support by 15% or more, this is considered an automatic substantial change of circumstances. 

2. Your child’s needs suddenly change 

If your child unexpectedly needs additional care for a medical or educational reason, this could be grounds to increase child support. On the other hand, a child no longer requiring daycare services could lower the amount of child support owed. If your child’s needs suddenly change for some reason, it may be time to reassess child support payments. 

3. A significant involuntary decrease in a parent’s income, even if the child’s needs have not changed

A loss of a job or mandatory reduction in hours at work can be a good reason to reevaluate child support payments. 

4. A voluntary reduction in a parent’s income and a child’s needs decreasing 

If one parent takes a lower paying job, quits, gets fired, chooses to take fewer hours, or otherwise reduces their income by choice, this is not grounds for changing child support unless the child’s needs have also decreased at the same time. In situations like this, the parent requesting a change must show: 

  • A reduced ability to pay 
  • That the decrease in income was not due to bad faith 
  • That the child’s needs have also decreased 

If you can’t prove all these circumstances, you probably won’t succeed in trying to modify your child support agreement. 

5. Your child begins receiving public assistance  

Receiving public assistance creates a debt to the State of North Carolina, which makes the State an interested party with standing to request a modification in child support payments. 

6. A change in the physical custody of a child 

If you’re the parent requesting the modification and your child moves in or out of your home, this may count as a significant change in circumstances. 

7. The end of a parent’s obligation for one or more of the children who are included in the child support order 

In the case of multiple children, when one child is no longer eligible for support (for example, when he or she turns 18), a request to modify the payment amount for the remaining children is valid. 

Not all changes in income count as a substantial change in circumstances, though. Here are some common situations that do not provide grounds for a child support modification: 

  • A Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy 
  • An increase in a parent’s financial responsibility for children who aren’t part of the child support agreement in question 
  • A substantial voluntary decrease in the income of either parent 
  • A substantial increase in the custodial parent’s income 

A Family Law Attorney Can Help You Modify Child Support—Here’s How 

Modifications to child support look deceptively easy. In theory, all you need to do is file a form and appear in court. 

In reality, the process can be complicated and challenging. For example: 

  • You’ll have to provide proof of a substantial change in circumstances. 
  • You and the other parent may disagree, and the other parent may fight tooth and nail — possibly with help from a lawyer — against your attempt to modify child support. 
  • The child support modification process can be time-consuming; in fact, sometimes it can last as long as the original child support case.  

Because of these potential complications, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to act as your advocate in the child support modification process. An experienced and dedicated family law attorney will help navigate the legal complexities, save you time and frustration, and stand up for your rights in court. 

Need to Modify Your Child Support Payments in North Carolina? Myers Law Firm Is Here to Help 

At Myers Law Firm, we know that child support disputes are hard on everyone involved. If you need to modify your child support payments, the experienced family law attorneys of Myers Law Firm are ready to stand up for you and protect your rights.  

We understand that child support is a complicated and important issue to you, so we’ll move quickly to learn about your situation and find a legal solution that meets your unique needs. To schedule your initial consultation today, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us using our online contact form. 

References

Definitions, Article 1, Chapter 50, N.C. General Statutes. § 50-16.1A. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_50/GS_50-16.1A.pdf

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

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Legal Issues for Same-Sex Parents During a Child Custody Battle

Since June 2015, same-sex couples have had the right to marry anywhere in the United States — an incredible, historic victory for marriage equality supporters everywhere. 

However, with marriage comes the reality of divorce, and with divorce comes child custody disputes. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the legal issues that same-sex parents may have to deal with during a child custody battle and how their legal needs may be different from parents who aren’t same-sex. 

What Happens When Both Parties Are Legal Parents? 

Thankfully, things have cleared up quite a bit for same-sex parents in cases where both parties have legal status as parents. The patchwork of state-by-state marriage laws used to create headaches and uncertainty for same-sex parents, but the nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage now means that courts should handle child custody disputes for same-sex parents who have taken steps for both partners to become legal parents in the same way as opposite-sex parents. 

Same-sex parents can gain full parental rights by legally adopting a child. In North Carolina, this can only happen when the parties have married and the non-biological parent adopts the child.  

If same-sex couples who have married and the non-biological parent has adopted the child separate, both parents have equal rights to pursue custody. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your child custody case will be simple. Judges consider many different factors as they decide what child custody arrangement would serve the child’s best interests, and the resulting legal cases can be very complex and time-consuming. 

RELATED: What You Need to Know About North Carolina Child Support

To learn more about some of the factors that the court will consider when deciding the outcome of your child custody case, visit our child custody practice area page. 

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What if Only One Party Is a Legal Parent? 

If only one of you is the child’s legal parent, things suddenly become a lot more complicated and uncertain. In general, if you’re not a legal parent to a child, you won’t have any legal rights as a parent, including the right to seek physical or legal custody of the child. You also may not be able to seek visitation rights, and you usually won’t have any financial obligation to support the child, either. 

This is because parents have a constitutionally-protected right to the control of their children. This right prevents third parties from being able to seek custody from a parent or parents. However, this constitutionally-protected right can be overcome if a third party shows that the parent (1) is unfit, (2) has neglected the child, or (3) has acted inconsistently with their constitutionally-protected status. 

For custody cases involving same-sex parties, the “acted inconsistent with their constitutionally protected status” is the factor that is used the most. One way that a parent acts inconsistent with their protected status is by voluntarily creating a relationship with a third party that is “in the nature of” a parent-child relationship (in other words, by allowing everyone involved to act as though the third party is the child’s actual parent). 

North Carolina Appeals Court Ruling Could Affect Future Same-Sex Custody Cases 

Just this week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals released an opinion (https://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=34873) which deals with a same-sex couple who were in court over a custody case. In the case, the defendant had the child through a donor sperm and donor egg. The defendant was considered the biological parent because she gave birth to the child. The plaintiff filed the case and sought custody by claiming that the defendant had acted inconsistently with her constitutionally-protected rights. 

The Court of Appeals held that a party pursuing such a claim must show two things: 1) they have a sufficient relationship with the child and 2) that the parent has acted inconsistent with their protected status. In the opinion, the Court of Appeals outlined the factors to be considered by a judge in such a case. They wrote that court must determine the intent of the biological parent as well as the actions that were taken by that parent. 

In this case, the court held that a judge should consider actions by the parties prior to the birth. Such actions could include the planning that took place, whether decisions were made jointly, how the parties held themselves out to others, how pre-birth expenses were handled, and who was present at the birth. 

However, the court held that while actions prior to the birth are important for showing the biological parent’s intent, they aren’t the sole factor since the child must first be born for the non-biological parent to form a relationship “in the nature of” a parent-child relationship. 

The Court of Appeals held that a trial judge must also consider what happened after the birth and whether the parent voluntarily allowed for the child and non-biological parent to create the parent-child relationship and held themselves out with the third party as parents to the child. 

One way to show this is how the parties presented themselves to family and friends. In this case, the parties had lived together for 20 months after the birth of the child. The court held that living together for that long as a family would be sufficient to show the parent acted inconsistent with their protected status. 

While the recent opinion from the North Carolina Court of Appeals establishes an interesting precedent that may affect future cases, this is an area of the law where it’s difficult to generalize about what might happen because the outcomes are so dependent on the unique facts of your case. As a result, it’s crucial to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can give you advice based on your unique situation and who knows the local courthouses well. 

Myers Law Firm: Child Custody Attorneys for Clients in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County 

The attorneys at Myers Law Firm have experience handling all the major family law issues that surround the end of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, property division, and divorce. We’re here if you need help. Call our offices at 888-376-2889 or fill out the contact form on our website. 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

Type of Case (Select One)(Required)

Co-Parenting

The start of a new school year can magnify the worries, conflicts, and financial stresses that many divorced or separated parents experience when trying to co-parent. 

If you’ve gone through this in the past or this is your first time and you are anxious about the coming fall, there are ways to deal with the potential problems. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of seven back-to-school co-parenting tips that you can follow to minimize stress and create a positive environment for both you and your child this year. 

For Effective Co-Parenting, the Two C’s Are Key 

A smooth transition into the school year requires two things from you and the other parent: coordination and cooperation. To get there, consider the following tips and try to incorporate them into your co-parenting strategy. 

  1. Strive for structure and consistency. Conflicts tend to arise when one or both parents start “winging it” in terms of the co-parenting schedule. A clear, pre-planned structure is the best way to avoid these problems. Make sure your children know where they’ll be staying every night, who will be dropping them off at school, and who will be picking them up. Once you have a schedule in place, try and stick to it with as little variation as possible.
  2. Use technology to get everyone on the same pageCloud-based calendar software can eliminate the misunderstandings and human errors that inevitably crop up when everyone keeps their own written copy of the schedule on their own personal calendar. Download one of the many apps available to help with co-parenting schedules and share it with the other parent. Then, use it to keep track of school events and holidays, extracurricular activities, appointments, and anything else that you both need to plan around.
  3. Make sure you get all the information you need from the school. Your child’s school needs to understand your co-parenting situation, so make sure that they have both parents’ contact information and ask that they send each parent copies of any school materials like report cards, lesson plans, and handouts. This will keep both parents in the loop about what’s going on at school and help you communicate effectively to address any issues that arise.
  4. Sit down each night to help your child with schoolwork and projects. Nothing shows your child that you care about their education like putting in the time to learn about what they’re working on at school and helping them through challenges. Let the other parent know you expect this from them as well, and coordinate with them to make sure you both know about important due dates and requirements for any big assignments or projects.
  5. Attend important school events with the other parent. Sometimes you may not want to see the other parent, and that’s understandable. Do your best, though, to put these feelings aside for important events like parent-teacher conferences or performances and school functions that involve your child. Making this effort shows your child that you care about them first and foremost, and it also keeps you from having to relay important details to the other parent — or receive them secondhand yourself. If you sense that potential problems are coming while attending one of these events, be the “bigger” person and walk away. Do not engage the other parent.
  6. Share the shopping duties. Back-to-school season generally brings on a lot of expenditures for parents — new clothes, school supplies, computers and tablets, and more — and neither parent should have to handle these costs on their own. Coordinate with the other parent to decide who will be responsible for buying what so you can avoid duplicate items and make sure your child has everything they need. It’s almost inevitable that there will be disagreements over which clothes to buy or which piece of technology offers the best value, so prepare for this and try to find common ground with the other parent wherever you can. You can also check with your child’s school about third party services available to teachers which allow the teacher to pick out the supplies for the classroom and order them ahead of time as a package.
  7. Don’t raise child support issues around the kidsIf child support is a contentious issue in your relationship with the other parent, it’s important to avoid bringing this up around your children. Talking badly about the other parent in front of your kids could come back to haunt you later. 

RELATED: 8 Healthy Ways To Deal With The Stress of Divorce

Of course, co-parenting is a two-way street, and there’s only so much you can do if the other parent won’t behave reasonably. If you believe the current co-parenting circumstances aren’t serving your child’s best interests and you can’t find a compromise that works for your family, it might be time to contact an experienced family law attorney who can give you practical advice and inform you about your rights and legal options. 

Let us help you.

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Call Myers Law Firm for Help with Child Custody and Co-Parenting Issues in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

If you’re feeling stressed over co-parenting issues and you’re struggling to reach compromises with the other parent, call the experienced family law attorneys at the Myers Law Firm. While we excel at respectful negotiation and will work to find common ground with your former spouse or partner, we’re always ready to stand up in court and fight for your rights with an aggressive approach if that’s what it takes to serve your child’s best interests. 

Attorneys Lee and Matt Myers of the Myers Law Firm have experience handling all the major family law issues that surround the end of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, property division, and divorce. We’re here if you need help. To get in touch with us, call our offices at 888-376-2889 or fill out the short contact form on our website. 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.