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Child Custody Mediation in NC Courts

Child Custody Mediation in the NC Courts

Where Do We Start?

The “magic words” in North Carolina child custody cases are best interest of the child. The Court hears evidence regarding the fitness of the parents, their desires, living accommodations, and the child or children’s past, current and prospective situation.

A judge must decide which parent will have the authority to make the major decisions affecting the child’s life and which will provide the child’s day-to-day residential supervision. Sometimes, both parents are awarded custody. This is known as legal custody.  The judge will also create a schedule for each parents to spend time with the child or children.  This is known as physical custody, which is literally “possession” of the child.

How Do We Get There?

With rare exceptions, if you file a child custody case, you will be required to attend mandatory child custody mediation. A neutral mediator who is trained to help parents work towards reaching a visitation schedule will try to help you and the other parent find common ground. But the ultimate job of putting together a schedule that works for the family is that of the parties.

How Does It Work?

Custody mediation is free, and no one but the mediator and the parents may attend the mediation. After attending an orientation program, the parents will attend the actual mediation. When parents live out of town, the program is facilitated by video.  If they reach an agreement at the mediation, the attorneys will have the opportunity to review the proposed agreement before it is signed by a judge, becoming a custody order.  If no agreement is reached, the case may proceed to trial, or the parents may decide to attend another mediation session if both agree.

The Goal of the Mediation Process

Mediation is your opportunity to jointly make parenting decisions on your own because if you cannot resolve these issues, a judge will decide them for you. A judge usually creates a specific visitation schedule, which may or not reflect what you like or want, or even what the other parent likes or wants. Therefore, it is best to attempt in good faith to resolve custody cases at mediation. Courts warmly welcome custodial agreements made by the parents.

Except in extremely unusual (and rare) circumstances, the non-custodial parent will receive substantial visitation privileges with the child. A typical visitation schedule for a non-custodial parents when both live in the same geographical area might be one in which the non-custodial parent has the child on alternate weekends, one-half of the holidays, several weeks in the summer, and perhaps one night during the week. This is not a required schedule but when both parents work and the children are in school, it tends to become a typical schedule.

Read more:

Things to Consider About Your Parenting Agreement

Putting Children First: A Booklet for Families in Transition from the NC Administrative Office of the Courts.

Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC, certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only in NC. Laws change.  This article is current as of September 2015.

 

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