There is a difference between legal child custody and physical child custody. Often this terminology is confused, which can lead to disputes when parents are trying to make major decisions affecting the child. Legal custody essentially means decision making. Physical custody, on the other hand, is where the child physically is – which parent they are spending the night with.
Most parents will share joint legal custody of their child. Thus, they will have equal input into decisions that are made for the child’s upbringing – what school they will attend, where they will go to the dentist, what church they will go to, and what sport they will play in the Fall. Sometimes, parents are not able to agree with each other on these types of issues. This is often the biggest area where disputes arise between parents after an order has been set in place. Some orders contain icebreaker language, which provides that the parents shall work together to make major decision, but that one parent will ultimately have the final decision making authority. Other orders will provide that the parents are each able to make decisions for different issues – dad, for example, may make all educational decisions, while mom makes all medical decisions. Another option is to force the parties to attend binding arbitration (sort of like a private trial) in the event they are unable to reach an agreement on a major decision.
So – what does it mean to have legal custody of my child? How does this impact my relationship with my child? Legal custody provides you with the opportunity to actively provide input and make decisions on how your child is to be raised. Unless one parent is not interested, not involved, or simply unfit to make decisions for the child, this is almost always shared jointly. Regardless of what and how parties feel about each other, it is almost always in the child’s best interest to work together to make joint decisions on their upbringing.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville and primarily serves Mecklenburg County and the Lake Norman area.
The termination of parental rights (TPR) severs all legal ties between the parent and the child. To have a TPR a court must find that grounds for the termination exist and that the TPR is in the child’s best interest.
TPR proceedings in North Carolina occur in juvenile court before a district court judge without a jury. The TPR proceeding is divided into two parts: (1) the adjudication stage where the petitioner has to prove the ground for termination, and (2) the disposition stage where the judge determines whether the TPR is in the child's best interest. To obtain a TPR, a petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the grounds exist for termination and that it is in the child's best interest for the termination to occur.
There are ten (10) grounds for terminating parental rights in North Carolina. These are set out under NCGS 7B-1111. A petitioner only needs to prove one ground to successfully win a TPR. Most notably, grounds for terminating parental rights may occur if the parent has neglected or abused the child, abandoned the child, failed to legitimate the child, or incapable of providing proper care and support for the child. For a more intimate review of the grounds, please see NCGS 7B-1111.
As stated above, even if the petitioner proves one of the grounds justifying termination, the judge must still find that TPR is in the child's best interest. Thus, a hearing with sworn testimony is required for all TPRs. A parent cannot simply consent to a TPR, even if they do not file an answer or appear at the hearing.
Adkins Law is located in Huntersville, NC and serves Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Iredell County, Gaston County, Cabarrus County, and the Lake Norman area. Contact Adkins Law to schedule a consultation with a family lawyer in Huntersville NC.