By Christopher Adkins
In North Carolina, child custody can be divided into two main elements: legal custody and physical custody. Legal and physical custody can be shared jointly, or can be granted solely to one parent.
Having legal custody of your child means that you are able to make decisions for important things in their lives. Things like where your child will be going to school, what doctor your child will see, and what religious upbringing they will receive – these are examples of legal custody decisions.
When you were married to your spouse, these were typically decisions that you made together. In most situations, the courts want to maintain this joint decision-making. Thus, often, co-parents share joint legal custody and have to mutually agree upon important decisions made involving the child’s upbringing.
Joint legal custody is not, however, always granted. In some circumstances, especially when one parent has been the primary caregiver and is granted sole physical custody, that parent may also be granted legal custody. In other situations, co-parents may be granted joint legal custody, but one parent may have the final decision-making authority on certain issues such as medical decisions, while the other parent may be granted final decision-making authority on certain issues such as education decisions. If a judge feels like the parents are not going to be able to mutually reach decisions on matters in the future, and ongoing conflict may arise between the parents, sole legal custody may be granted to one parent.
Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child physically lives. Like legal custody, physical custody can be shared jointly, or one parent may be granted sole physical custody. Most commonly, when both parents are involved in the child’s life, they are awarded joint physical custody, which may not involve an exact 50/50 time split, but something very close.
If one parent is awarded the child most of the time, that parent is said to have primary physical custody, and the other parent is usually granted visitation or parenting time. A common example of this type of physical custody arrangement would be when one parent has parenting time with the child every other weekend. It is common for a parent with visitation rights to be granted several weeks of parenting time with the child during summer break to make up for any time they are not able to spend with the child during the school year.
If you have questions regarding child custody and need to speak to a family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law. Adkins Law has locations in Huntersville and Ballantyne, and primarily serves Mecklenburg County, south Charlotte, and the Lake Norman area.