Working out your child custody agreement may be the most difficult part of your divorce. Even if you and your spouse are parting on peaceful terms, you may have different ideas of what an ideal custody schedule looks like. If your split is contentious, though, trying to reach consensus may seem impossible. In either case, it is important to step back from your disagreements and consider how custody cases resolve in North Carolina.
Most custody cases resolve through mediation
Unless you and your spouse can negotiate your own child custody agreement, you will likely work it out in mediation provided by the Court system or through your respective attorneys. Under North Carolina law, courts – in most cases – must send child custody cases to mediation, rather than resolving them through litigation. If your divorce is particularly difficult, mediating your custody case could help reduce the level of conflict between you and your spouse. This, in turn, could make it easier for you two to create an agreement tailored to your children’s needs.
It is possible, though, that your circumstances could allow you to have court-ordered mediation waived. This could happen if:
- You and your spouse are going through private mediation
- You or your spouse have a history of child abuse or neglect
- You or your spouse have a history of spousal abuse
- You or your spouse have a history of substance abuse
- You or your spouse have serious mental health issues
- Your or your spouse’s residence is over 100 miles from the court
Custody agreements must put children first
No matter how you and your spouse resolve your custody case, your agreement must reflect your children’s best interests. To determine if it does, the court will weigh numerous factors related to their well-being and current routines. Likely, the court will want to make sure your children stay in their community, as well as close to their siblings and extended family. Furthermore, the court will want to ensure your children’s safety and that their needs will get met. And the court may want to consider your children’s wishes, too, if they are of an age or maturity where their input is appropriate.
By making sure custody agreement prioritizes your children’s needs, you may make it easier for them to adjust to life after your divorce. To ensure your agreement allows them to thrive, you will want to seek the guidance of a family law attorney.