Custody law for divorcing parents is complex and can very emotional. In order to faithfully address the multitude of situations that could arise from such a sensitive process, North Carolina law breaks custody law into two categories. A judge decides independently for each type whose custody will best serve the interests of a minor child.
Physical custody is the kind of custody most parents understand right away. It’s the actual time spent serving as active guardian of a minor. In North Carolina, one parent typically receives primary custody of children, the other secondary custody. Primary custody means that the parent will be with the child more than half of the time. Sometimes custody is awarded equally, but only in rare cases will a court award sole custody to one parent. This would usually mean that the other parent’s visitation rights are limited or even prohibited.
Legal custody is all about making important life decisions for a child, including ones concerning religion, education, and medical. A court will determine what is in the child’s best interest, typically awarding equal legal custody to both parents. This means that parents must come to mutual agreement before major decisions are made. It is less common, but sometimes sole custody is awarded to a parent, empowering them to make decisions for a child without consent from the other parent.
Seeking legal counsel from a family law attorney is highly recommended for those involved in a custody dispute. It’s important to have someone with a deep understanding of North Carolina law as it applies to your specific case. James Rawlson is a family law attorney based in Raleigh.