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How Does The Judge Decide Custody Issues in North Carolina?


Custody issues in North Carolina are no different from in any other state. Whether it is parents arguing over custody or grandparents or the Department of Social Services petitioning for custody, the interest of the minor child is the top priority. When judges must decide custody issues, the laws in North Carolina require the judge to determine what is in the “best interest” of the child.

Because each child is unique and each situation is different, what is in the best interest of one child may or may not apply to another child. For that reason, North Carolina custody laws focus on the best interest of the child rather than outline specific rules for legal and physical custody. However, there are various general guidelines that assist judges in determining “best interest” when deciding custody issues.

North Carolina Custody Issues, Mediation and Trial Proceedings

Obviously, it is in the best interest of the child and the parents if the parents can agree on custody issues. Therefore, in an effort to put the welfare of the child first and to try to come to a settlement that will benefit all parties, parents are required to attend a mandatory mediation session. Mediation is used as a non-threatening, private tool to facilitate open, honest discussions between parents in hopes that they can come to an agreement as to all custody issues.

However, if parents are unable to agree on custody issues, litigation becomes necessary so that a judge can make the final decision. Unfortunately, going to court on custody issues means that parents are giving up control over deciding what is in the best interest of their child. A judge cannot possibly learn as much about a child or the child’s needs as the parents already know.

It is always better for the child if the parents can agree to custody issues during mediation. When this is just not possible, judges consider various factors in deciding custody issues, to include:

  • The age of the child;
  • The work schedule of each parent who works outside of the home;
  • The parenting ability of each parent including the physical and emotional condition of each parent;
  • Which parent assumed the primary role in child rearing after the child was born;
  • Which parent has the ability to feed, bathe and care for the child each day and evening;
  • Is either parent trying to use the child as leverage in a divorce proceeding or trying to prevent the child from bonding with the other parent;
  • The physical and emotional needs of the child; and,
  • If either parent is unwilling, unfit or unable to care for and raise the child.

Again, there is not a specific formula written into the laws of North Carolina that judges can use to decide custody issues. Judges have and will continue to use the guiding principle of “best interest” of the child to decide custody issues. For this reason, it is very important that you contact an experienced child custody attorney who is familiar with how judges decide custody issues to protect your rights and the rights of your child.

Contact an Experienced Jacksonville Child Custody Attorney

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