Joint Custody in North Carolina

All custody orders in North Carolina must determine custodial rights supported by the best interest of the child.  That being said, custody is not defined in the North Carolina General Statutes.  Through case law, we have established legal custodial rights and physical custodial rights.

A party may, through pleadings or motions, request joint custody in the state.  However, the Judge ultimately will decide the specific legal and physical custody situation that suits the needs of your child.

What is Legal Custody?

“Legal custody” is not defined in the general statutes, but the Court of Appeals has held that it refers generally to the right and responsibility to make decisions with important and long-term implications for a child’s best interest and welfare

Examples of decisions a parent with legal custody can make include religious affiliation, educational issues, health issues, extracurricular activities, and other decisions that will have to be made regarding your child.

What is Joint Legal Custody?

Joint legal custody gives both parents the right to make major decisions impacting the child’s life.  From braces, educational issues, and sports, both parents must agree on the decision to satisfy the court order.  If the parents cannot agree, a Motion can be filed and ultimately the judge will decide for the parents or grant one parent primary decision making power over the contested area.

Physical Custody:  The day to day decisions.

Physical custody is also a creature of case law in North Carolina and is the specific visitation schedule put into place by the Judge. The parent exercising custodial visitation decides the day to day issues, such as what meals will be fed, any special activities at their home, and how much screen time will be allowed.

What is Joint Physical Custody?

Joint physical custody in North Carolina typically means an equal custodial visitation schedule.  Whether its week to week or a two-two-three overnight schedule, more and more cases are warranting a joint physical custody schedule, particularly when the parents have been very involved with the upbringing of the child.

Extracurricular Activities are Part of Parenting?

Extracurricular activities are often a sore subject between parents and an issue for physical and legal custody.  While an objection to travel ball or competition dance may be valid, objecting to local sports and extracurricular activities is not something a judge will view favorably.


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