When it comes to legal proceedings that involve children, the parties can go through quite a range of emotions as the process plays out. Child custody disputes are a prime example, whether they come up in the process of a divorce or between a couple who has a child together but were never married. No matter the range of emotions that the parties might go through, it is important to keep an eye on the main goal of the child custody process: to determine an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
So, how might your child custody arrangement turn out? Well, for many of our readers in North Carolina, it probably seems like for as much as there is a range of emotions involved in this process there is also a wide range of potential end points as well. For starters, it is important for our readers to understand that there are two parts of the child custody process that need to be determined: legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to who will make the major decisions that impact the child's life, such as decisions about education, healthcare and even religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to where the child will reside. Both legal and physical custody can be either "joint" or "sole." Joint legal custody means that both of the parents will have input on the major decisions that need to be made about the child's upbringing. Joint physical custody means that the child will reside with both parents part of the time, although the actual division of time is unique to every case.
Sole legal or physical custody usually isn't the preferred arrangement for family law courts in North Carolina, because it may mean that one of the parents is excluded from major decisions or may not have as much physical time with the child. Family law courts recognize that, in most cases, it is best for a child to have significant relationships with both parents. But, every case is unique, and the final child custody arrangements will usually be unique to the relationships involved in the case.