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Child Custody


FAQs


Child Custody is often the most emotional area of the law surrounding separation and divorce. The court is charged with determining what custodial arrangement is in the best interest of the child.

One of the hardest aspects of child custody decisions is that the court is not charged with "rewarding" an active parent and "punishing" a less-involved parent. The court's job is to determine what it believes to be in each child's best interest. The judge takes into account all relevant factors, including any domestic violence between the parties. The safety and general welfare of the child is the main priority of the court's determination.

The judge has wide discretion in determining what he or she believes to be in a particular child's best interest. Often, the parents, regardless of their feelings for each other, are in a better position to determine what is best for their child than is the judge. For that reason, if a lawsuit for custody is filed in Wake County, North Carolina, the parties are required to attend custody mediation and attempt to reach a resolution without judicial intervention. This custody mediation is different from private mediation in that it takes place at the Wake County Courthouse and the parties attend the mediation without their lawyers present. If you do reach an agreement at mediation, you can have your attorney review it prior to signing it.

Another option for resolving custody outside of a courtroom is to attend private mediation. When you are represented by counsel at mediation, you and your lawyer attend mediation together. In Wake County, family law mediations are typically conducted with each party in separate rooms (accompanied by his or her attorney) and the mediator facilitating settlement discussions.


FAQs

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At what age can my child decide where he or she wants to live?

There is no specific age at which a child gets the absolute choice to dictate where he or she wants to live. However, older children sometimes speak to a judge (often in chambers) and express their wishes. The judge can consider the child's wishes in making the decision, but is not bound to follow the child's wishes. This is because the court never relinquishes control of its authority to determine the best interest of the child. For example, if a teenager wants to live with a particular parent because that parent allows drinking or fails to supervise him appropriately, the court may decide it is not in his best interest to reside with that parent.

Can I keep custody out of court?

There are several ways to keep custody and all of your legal issues out of court. Often, parties are unable to reach an agreement on their own, but with the assistance of lawyers and sometimes a mediator, they are able to reach an agreement and keep their case out of court.